For a very long time — a.k.a. for far too long — women had to deal with a lot of uncertainty regarding their reproductive health. Little historical medical knowledge on woman’s health coupled with improper diagnosis methods for potential illnesses made understanding warning signs for potential cervical issues nearly impossible. There was a time when there wasn’t even such thing as a Pap smear, let alone education for women on when to get a Pap smear.
Heck, Hipprocates wanted to dilate women with “hollow leaden probes” to help with infertility and pregnancy issues. Um, no thanks. Fortunately, reproductive health diagnosis and instruments have come far, even though they’re still a little creepy in appearance.
Today, more patients can detect early-stage cervical cancer, treat viral infections immediately and know when something’s up with their cervix — all due to a safe and successful procedure referred to as a Pap smear.
If you’ve met with a gynecologist, you know all too well that one of the first questions you’re often asked is, “When did you have your last pap smear?” But you should sigh a breath of relief.
After all, this quick and easy little test can provide you with insightful information that can keep you in optimal health.
Why Is Reproductive Health Important?
Whether you’re actively trying to get pregnant or have no intention of having a baby soon, reproductive health is vital to every woman at any age.
If you’re wondering how to maintain reproductive health, screening yourself for potential abnormalities in your reproductive organs is often the first step.
When it comes to screening your health, being aware of common women’s health conditions is crucial. Issues to be aware of as a woman include cervical cancer HPV, and more — lions, tigers and bears. Oh, my!
The myriad of possible conditions you could have may feel like the characters in a mad carnival, but equipping yourself with knowledge empowers you. When you inform yourself about prospective health issues, you put yourself in a better position to seek help before they develop into more significant problems in the future.
Knowing facts about the reproductive system that we hold so dear is always a good thing. Your reproductive health is inevitably a huge part of your overall wellbeing, so be sure to get the necessary check-ups and tests associated with your ovary and cervix whenever needed.
When to Schedule a Visit with Your Gynecologist
You know that pap smears are important, but just how often should you schedule an appointment to have your test done? Often, knowing when to get a Pap smear will depend on your unique risk factors and health conditions.
Doctors recommend that you schedule an appointment for your first Pap smear once you turn 21, even if you haven’t had sex yet. While your risks for developing cervical cancer may be lower if you’re not sexually active, it’s still vital to ensure your cervix isn’t producing irregular or suspicious-looking cells. So go get your lady parts checked and maybe have a cocktail afterward.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women get a Pap smear done every 3 years to ensure no abnormal changes in their reproductive system. Three really is a magic number!
Even when you’re no longer of child-bearing age, an annual visit with your gynecologist can help ensure you that you’re not at risk for developing cervical cancer as you age.
What to Expect
If you’re like most women who’ve never had a Pap smear, you may not even know what to expect. And there’s no reason to be embarrassed about wanting to educate yourself on anything that can benefit your health, so don’t be afraid to discuss the procedure with your gynecologist first.
Reproductive health matters — which means getting screened for potential health issues is vital, too. If you’ve made the choice to go ahead and get a Pap smear, you should pat yourself on the back. Go ahead — do it now! Any test that ensures your body is in proper working order is a decision well made.
Don’t worry about the procedure too much. A Pap smear simply involves a physician collecting cells from your cervix by inserting a small device into your vaginal area. Little tip: count the tiles in the ceiling! Before you know it, the gynecologist has his or her samples and is ready to send these cells to a lab for further evaluation.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurances cover this vital test, meaning there’s no reason not to have the procedure done whenever you or your doctor find it necessary.
When to Get a Pap Smear and How to Prepare
To avoid influencing your cervix’s cells, it’s crucial to prepare your body for a Pap smear so that you can receive optimal and accurate results. Getting ready for this procedure is easy and doesn’t really require any special preparation. Basically — don’t put anything in there, and tell the doc if Aunt Flo’s in town. To best prepare for your test, simply do the following:
- Don’t have sexual intercourse a few days before your test
- Avoid using tampons, vaginal creams or douching two days in advance
- Inform your doctor if you’re on your period, as this could influence your results
Not sure when to get a Pap smear or if now’s the right time? Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if it’s in your best interest to get tested. The procedure itself only takes several minutes. Before you know it, your gynecologist will send you on your merry way. Tra-la-la-la!
The beauty about having a Pap smear is you can leave your doctor’s office knowing you’re proactively taking the steps necessary towards becoming a healthier and stronger you.