What is a pap smear and why do I need it?

If you’re female, you’re going to need numerous pap smears over your lifetime. But what is a pap smear? And are pap smears necessary?

WHAT IS A PAP SMEAR?

In very basic terms, a pap smear is a way to check on the health of your cervix. A pap smear can detect any changes in the cells in your cervix which could lead to a number of concerns such as cervical cancer and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and it can identify sexually transmitted diseases.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN I HAVE A PAP SMEAR DONE?

When you undergo a pap smear, a speculum, which can be made of plastic or stainless steel, is gently placed inside the vagina. This holds the wall of the vagina apart, giving your gynaecologist a clear view and access to your cervix. Once the speculum is in place, your gynaecologist will insert a small brush or spatula through the speculum to take a swab of your cervix. Once the swab has been completed, the speculum will be removed, and the physical part of the exam is over. The cells are then sent to the laboratory to be examined for any abnormalities.

WHEN WILL I GET THE RESULTS OF MY PAP SMEAR?

The results of your pap smear will generally be returned inside one to two weeks.

DOES AN ABNORMAL PAP SMEAR MEAN I HAVE CERVICAL CANCER?

While a pap smear can pick up cervical cancer, it is important to remember that an abnormal pap smear result does not automatically mean the worst. Often abnormal cells are caused by something entirely different and may be able to be treated quickly and easily. If any abnormalities are detected in your pap smear, Dr Suzana Kotevska will help you to navigate the next steps in your treatment.

HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO HAVE A PAP SMEAR?

As a general rule of thumb, you will need a pap smear about every two years. However, this will vary depending on your age and your medical history. Based on this information, Dr Kotevska will be able to tell you just how often you need a pap smear at your consultation.

DO PAP SMEARS HURT?

While the process certainly isn’t overly comfortable, your pap smear should not be painful. The whole process is over very quickly and you’ll be able to re-commence your day’s activities.

I’M TOO SCARED TO GET A PAP SMEAR

While a pap smear can sound a little scary, it’s truly not that bad, and will be over before you know it. If you’re really nervous about it though, don’t be shy to speak to the friendly and compassionate staff at Stela Obstetrics and Gynaecology about the process and how they can help you. It’s such an important part of monitoring the health of every woman. There’s also no need to be embarrassed about getting a pap smear. Dr Kotevska is highly experienced at taking pap smears; it’s a very normal part of her job and she will help you to feel comfortable and relaxed.

WHERE TO GET YOUR PAP SMEAR IN MELBOURNE

Dr Suzana Kotevska is a highly experience obstetrician and gynaecologist, and she strives to ensure all her patients feel completely at ease and relaxed at their consultation. Apart from English, Dr Kotevska also speaks Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Croatian which allows her to provide excellent and personalised care to women of many backgrounds.

What is an Obstetrician?

Choosing an obstetrician can be one of the most difficult decisions for a woman to make. It is essential that a woman chooses an obstetrician that aligns with her individual preferences. Before choosing an obstetrician, there are a number of questions you need to ask. So let’s start with the basics.

WHAT IS AN OBSTETRICIAN?

An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in pregnancy, childbirth and a woman’s reproductive system. Obstetricians specialise in taking care of women from conception through to delivery, covering all aspects of the pregnancy journey.

It must be noted that obstetricians provide a number of services for women during pregnancy, which include:

  • Monitoring the health of your child by conducting regular tests
  • Regularly assessing patients for health conditions that may cause problems during pregnancy, which include high blood pressure, diabetes and any other genetic disorders
  • Providing diet, exercise and medical advice for patients to ensure they remain healthy during pregnancy
  • Providing care for common symptoms of pregnancy which include morning sickness, stomach pains and other common complaints

HOW TO CHOOSE AN OBSTETRICIAN

As mentioned, it is pivotal that women choose a doctor who aligns with their individual preferences. You may need to ask yourself questions such as:

  • Will I be more comfortable with a male or female doctor?
  • How much can I afford to spend for treatment?
  • Will my doctor support my desire to aim for a drug free birth?
  • Will my doctor support my birthing preference (e.g. hypnobirthing)?

It is essential that you ask yourself necessary questions such as these before choosing an obstetrician to support you during your pregnancy journey.

WHEN SHOULD I FIRST VISIT AN OBSTETRICIAN?

Well it’s simple, as soon as you believe you may be pregnant! Here it is recommended that women undergo an initial physical examination to ensure you receive the care you require. Traditionally, most doctors won’t schedule a visit until around the two month mark of your pregnancy journey, although it is recommended that you schedule an appointment to visit your doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.

The sooner you schedule an appointment with your obstetrician, the smoother your pregnancy journey will be, as they will assist you in determining the most effective treatment plan for you.

Early pregnancy indications

Missing a period

One of the earliest indications that a woman is pregnant is missing a period. However, there could be other reasons for menstruation to be delayed, such as stress, illness, excessive weight gain or anorexia, or coming off of an oral contraception pill. In some women polycystic ovarian syndrome can be a condition that causes irregular periods and sometimes very infrequent periods.

Breast tenderness

Some women, especially multi-gravidas, know that they are pregnant just by the give away sign of breast tenderness. As early as a few days after conception the breasts begin to enlarge in order to get ready for breastfeeding. They feel heavier and sore, especially on touch. There is sometimes a tingling sensation and this disappears several weeks later.

Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting

Feeling nauseous is a quite common complaint in early pregnancy and is experienced by the majority of women in early pregnancy, especially around five to six weeks. For most women this symptom disappears at around 14 to 16 weeks of pregnancy. However, there are a small number of women who have hyperemesis throughout the pregnancy.

Tiredness

Many women feel very tired during pregnancy, especially at the beginning. They find that they need much more rest and they need to take a nap several times during the day. However, the frequency of napping lessens after 14 weeks.

Changes in taste and smell

Certain foods can cause sudden queasiness or you may start to crave particular foods. Sometimes women may have a metallic taste in their mouths.

Constipation

Constipation is a common symptom in early pregnancy. However, this can be a continuing symptom throughout the pregnancy. This is caused by the high levels of progesterone which relaxes the bowel and slows the digestion.

Mood swings

Pregnant women can be overtly emotional. This is a secondary effect from a flood of pregnancy hormones.

Frequent urination

Early in the pregnancy there is pressure from the enlarging uterus onto the bladder and this is literally reducing the capacity of the woman’s bladder. At about 14 weeks the uterus rises up into the abdomen and most women start having the urge to urinate frequently which can be annoying. This is a very good time for you to start doing your pelvic floor exercises if you haven’t already started.