Best Time to Have a Pap Smear

When is the best time to have a Pap smear?

It is ideal to have a Pap smear done 10-20 days after the start of your last period. It is not recommended to plan your Pap smear during a period. Menstrual fluid and blood may make it difficult for the pathologist to interpret results. However, if the flow is light, some doctors will perform a Pap smear. Newer, liquid based Pap smears can separate cervical cells from mucus and blood, allowing a more accurate reading.

If you have started your period unexpectedly or find you have scheduled your Pap during a time when you may have your period, call your doctor's office. Ask to speak to a nurse or the doctor and inform them that your Pap smear will coincide with your period. You may be asked to reschedule, or be told to keep your appointment. In that case, the doctor will most likely check to see if the flow is light enough to proceed with the test.

It is also suggested that women avoid having anything in the vagina 24-48 hours prior to a Pap smear. This includes:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Spermicides, foams, or jellies
  • Douching
  • Vaginal inserts
  • Tampons

All of these things can make it difficult for the pathologist to accurately interpret results. But most important, don't avoid having the test done; it's better to have a Pap smear at a less-than-optimal time than not at all.

When scheduling your Pap smear appointment, experts recommend taking careful planning about what day in your cycle to have the test done.

Guidelines to keep in mind when scheduling your next Pap smear:

  • Do not schedule for a day that you may be menstruating
  • Try to schedule for an appointment about two weeks following the first day if your last period

What if I Have Gone Through Menopause?

It is a common misconception that women who have gone through menopause no longer need regular Pap smears.

Post-menopausal women may still need Pap smears. Those who still require Pap smears can have the test performed at any time during the month.


"Cervical Cancer Screening: Testing Can Start Later and Occur Less Often Under New ACOG Recommendations." ACOG NEWS RELEASE. 21 July 2003. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Accessed 04 Aug 2007.

"Key Statistics About Cervical Cancer." 08 Aug 2006. American Cancer Society. Accessed 04 Aug 2007.
"Pap Test: What is a Pap Test." 02 FEB 2003. American Cancer Society.

"The Pap Test Questions and Answers." Dec 2003. National Cancer Institute.

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