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How To Prepare For Your Pap Smear


Updated June 02, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pap Smear on a medical test form
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Pap smears are an important screening tool for cervical cancer. All women should have annual Pap smears beginning at age 21, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women 21 to 29 should get a Pap every two years, then annually from ages 30 to 64.

Ensuring that you get the most accurate Pap smear results means being properly prepared for your annual pelvic exam. Follow these simple tips for more accurate Pap smear results.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: n/a

Here's How:

  1. Do not use vaginal douches for at least 3 days prior to your appointment.
  2. Refrain from sexual intercourse for 48 hours prior to your appointment.
  3. Do not use tampons, birth control foams or jellies for 48 hours prior to your appointment.


  1. Schedule your appointment about one or two weeks after you expect your period. If your period starts, call your provider to reschedule.
  2. Write down any questions you have for your doctor, and take your list to your appointment.
  3. Don't forget to inform your doctor about any infections, discharges, or pain you have experienced since your last examination. If you have had previous abnormal Pap smear results that she may not have on record, tell her about them. Also be certain to tell her if you know you've been exposed to HPV.
  4. If you receive abnormal results, get a detailed explanation about the meaning from your provider. If you don't understand, ask questions.
  5. Follow your physician's advice about any further diagnostic/treatment procedures. Remember, too, that it's always your right to ask for a second opinion.
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