Is it okay to have a Pap test during your period?

Originally Published: January 28, 2000
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Dear Alice,

Can having a Pap test during menstruation have effects on the result? I've heard not to get one during this period. Can it cause abnormal results? Why is this?

Thanks, Curious

Dear Curious,

You're right about what you've heard: women don't usually have Pap tests done during their periods. Menstruation itself does not cause abnormal Pap smear results; but, menstrual blood could cause false-normal test results because it may make abnormal cervical cells difficult to see.

It's recommended that women schedule a Pap test between ten and twenty days following the start of their periods. It's also important not to douche, apply vaginal medication, and/or insert spermicide (as foam, cream, jelly, film, suppository, or tablet) for about two days before the exam because they may remove or obscure abnormal cells, preventing the most accurate test reading.