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Getting Ready for Your Pap Test

There are a lot of reasons why you may be nervous about your Pap test. It can help to talk to your health care provider beforehand about your worries or about how your past experiences may affect your Pap. This page provides some tips and tricks that will help you prepare for your Pap test.

Before for your appointment

  • Book your Pap test for when you are pretty sure you won’t have your period. The test may have to be redone otherwise.
  • Avoid having vaginal* sex for 2 days prior to your test, though a Pap can still usually be performed if you’ve had sex.
  • Avoid douching, wearing tampons and using vaginal sprays, deodorants, creams, and medicines.
  • Think about any questions you may have and write them down so you can take them to the appointment.

Your Rights

  • You deserve to be treated with respect and without judgment.
  • You have the right to say yes or no to any thing that is done to you, and your health care provider should ask you first before they do anything.
  • Tell your health care provider if you want them to slow down, to use a differently-sized speculum, to add more lube, or to stop (for a second, or altogether).
  • You have the right to be addressed in a way that is inclusive of your identity. Tell your healthcare provider what gender pronouns you prefer, or if you use different words for parts of your body.

Speak up!  Talking to your health care provider

  • It is okay to speak up and ask questions at any point.
  • If you are worried about forgetting some of your questions, refer to your list!

Relaxation tips

  • Relaxing during a Pap test isn’t just important for your own mental health; the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your vagina is. This will make the experience more comfortable for you and easier for your health care provider (which means it goes by more quickly too!)
  • Try taking deep breaths and pay attention to your breathing.
  • Ask a friend or other support person to come with you.
  • Distract yourself by looking at posters and flyers that may be on the wall. Or play an alphabet game by trying to think of an animal, country, or city for the every letter.
  • If you’re not used to having something inside you, try getting your body used to the feeling at home beforehand with your fingers or a sex toy.

Do I look weird “down there”?

  • Try not to worry. Everyone’s vulva, vagina and cervix is unique. No two will look the same, just as no two faces look exactly alike.
  • Health care providers do Pap tests every day and they know that there is a lot of diversity in how genitals can look.

Should I shave my pubic hair before a Pap test?

  • Nope, this isn’t necessary. Whether you are shaved, waxed or all natural it’s all the same when getting a Pap.

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]

*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.

Last Edited: May 2020


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