Last Updated on June 16, 2020
Are you concerned about bleeding after a pap smear? Pap smears are a crucial step in the responsibility of maintaining a woman’s sexual health, as the sooner any abnormal results are detected the better chance of successful treatment.
These screening tests have the role of detecting abnormal cell growth in the cervix, under a microscope. Pregnant women need to have a pap smear in the early stage of pregnancy as part of a regular prenatal check.
As well as pregnancy, the current recommendation is that all women should get a Pap smear starting at the age of 21 and get re-tested every three years if you’re of average risk.
Why is a Pap Smear important?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted disease, genetics, smoking, and age puts you above average risk of developing pre-cancerous cells in your cervix. That’s why as your age increases it is recommended you get tested for HPV and a pap smear every five years between the ages of 30-65.
The process is quick and simple, taking only around 10 to 20 minutes. You may notice after having the exam there is some bleeding after your pap. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why this happens and when it may be appropriate to seek a professional opinion.
Is Bleeding After A Pap Smear Normal?
Bleeding after Pap smear is an extremely normal occurrence and doesn’t necessarily guarantee that if you don’t bleed during your first Pap smear, you won’t during your second. The professional view is that since the cervix is extremely vascular (lots of blood cells near the surface) it is normal to experience some amount of spotting or bleeding.
During a Pap smear, your doctor will use a metal device called a speculum, to hold your vaginal walls apart for the swabbing. Once the speculum is in place your General Practitioner will use a small wooden or plastic spatula or a cytobrush to gently scrape a small sample of your cervical cells to be sent to a lab for microscopic analysis.
Here, they will analyze your sample to look for any abnormal cell growth. Since the process involves a gentle scraping this can cause irritation to your uterus, often resulting in some amount of bleeding.
What Causes Bleeding After A Pap Smear?
There are many things that can cause some bleeding after a Pap smear, from normal cervical irritation after the procedure to additional irritation from STDs. Birth Control may increase the risk of abnormal bleeding because this changes a woman’s hormones to prevent pregnancy. This change in hormones levels from Birth Control leads the cervix to become more sensitive than usual, therefore more prone to bleeding from irritation.
Likewise, pregnancy can also cause a higher chance of bleeding after a pap smear. Pregnant women may experience more bleeding due to the increased blood flow and the abundance of blood vessels to support the baby’s growth.
The good news for pregnant women is that the doctor will typically only collect a sample using a swab, avoiding the brush that is normally used to collect cells.
A woman can also have polyps, small finger-like extensions connecting the uterus to the cervix, that can burst and bleed during the scraping part of the procedure. This bleeding usually poses no additional risk to the mother and baby.
When Is Bleeding After Pap Smear Serious?
Light bleeding or spotting is extremely common for one or two days on average after you’ve received a Pap smear. There are times when you should be concerned about your symptoms including when you’re experiencing heavy amounts of blood (more than one pad an hour), and a steady flow of blood which continues past the second day after receiving the pap smear.
It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion if you are having severe cramping or changes in the color of blood, either brighter or darker than normal.
Heavy bleeding after a pap smear could be a sign of an STD infection, or perhaps a polyp, the only way to find out is to go back to your doctor. This is essential since an infection can lead to further complications.
Dealing With The Bleeding After a Smear
If you are experiencing spotting or mild bleeding after a pap smear, then the best way to deal with it is to wear a traditional pad for a few days. This will soak up any blood and give you the reassurance you need.
If you’re bleeding continues for more than a few days or you’re having any of the abnormal bleeding symptoms or heavy cramping it is always best to get your concerns checked out by your Doctor or Gynecologist. This includes pregnant women, as an infection usually accompanies blood, requiring treatment to prevent potential harm to your baby.
Let’s face it, your period is an inconvenience and a pap smear is another slight downside to having a female reproductive system. There are some tips you can apply to bleeding after pap smears that you’re using right now for your period.
Since a lot of the effects of a Pap Smear are similar to how you feel during a period, you can help manage it the same way. Always carrying a spare pair of panties reduces the stress and the worry of an accidental ‘show through’, along with wearing pads.
To help with the cramping, drink plenty of water and use a heating pad or a hot water bottle on your stomach, this can be a real lifesaver. Remember to use a towel or blanket for a barrier between the heating pad and your skin, as it can get very hot.
More Things To Do Following Your Pap Smear
If you are bleeding after a pap smear examination, follow the tips above and seek advice from your doctor at the earliest convenience if you are concerned about anything. Some other things to bear in mind, which are questions you may wish to raise with your doctor include the following:
- When will you get your results?
Perhaps one of the most important questions for your peace of mind, so makes sure you ask before you leave. They will usually call you with the results in a few weeks time.
- Should you use Protection?
In addition to getting a Pap smear, you should also schedule regular tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and every time you change sexual partners. It is also a good idea to get your partner tested before engaging in sexual activity as Pap smears do not test for HPV or any additional STDs. Pap smears only show abnormal cell growth. Condoms can break and birth control only protects against conception, not against sexually transmitted diseases.
- Do you need a follow-up test?
There are several follow-up tests you should have done if your results from the Pap smear are abnormal because Pap smears infrequently produce false results. A secondary Pap smear is usually performed and if results are still abnormal you will be referred to a specialist. The specialist will confirm abnormal results through a cervical biopsy, a minor surgical procedure, usually performed on an outpatient basis.
- Follow-up care is important
It’s essential that you return to your doctor if you require any follow-up care. If you leave any abnormality or infection to remain, it could have extremely severe outcomes. For instance, HPV can lead to cervical cancer and can have zero symptoms.
While you’re at the doctors and have the access to professional advice now’s the perfect time to address other issues or concerns like what normal vaginal discharge should look like, or how to perform a self-breast exam at home- an easy method for breast cancer screening.
Doctors are medical professionals- no matter how embarrassing you think your question might be chances are they’ve heard it before and will have the answers you need.