Would you get a pap during your period?

For most women, the answer would be an emphatic no just for the “eww” factor alone.

I was particularly good at cajoling my female patients to get their pap done TODAY when they came in for other concerns.

My charge for killing two birds with one stone on the same clinic visit  while saving the expense of another co-pay worked like a charm. No messy period was getting in my way checking off the pap smear box.

The results of my zealous pursuit for getting the pap done no matter what however were not pretty.

I would get more than a few pathology reports back with unsatisfactory number of cells or just some errant inflammation which all boiled down to having the lady come back to have the pap repeated.

The common denominator for the abnormal pathology reports were that all those paps smears were taken while the patients were on their period.

It did not take me long to abandon the “pap-during-the-period” strategy.

Meanwhile, most centers have moved away from what was known historically as the “pap smear”.  Back in the day, we would make a smear on a glass slide and then send it off to a lab to be examined under a microscope.

The 21st century pap smear is now known as the “thin prep”. The harvested cells are sent to the lab in a broth rather than a glass slide. The thin prep has pretty much eliminated the problem of getting too much of menstrual blood instead of actual cervical cells.

In a nutshell, you should have no problem getting your pap done during your period as long as both you and your doctor are comfortable with seeing some “red”.

About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.


  • Here I had no idea that you could even do that! I know my doctor prefers for you to not be on your period, which can be a pain since my period always seems to readjust itself when it’s time for my yearly exam.

    • Melissa, don’t you love how your period just knows to show up on the day you are scheduled for a pap.

  • It’s hard to time doctor appointments so good information to know! Although I feel like most women would prefer to keep that area off limits during their time of the month. Also, it’s an important test so it’s best to avoid postponing.

  • I actually ran into this one time. I didn’t know either. I would say it was not as bad as I thought but I would rather not. Great article!

  • I had this happen to me and I called to reschedule and the office actually told me to come in anyways and said I didn’t need to reschedule anymore. P.S. — I did anyways because I wasn’t feeling up to having it while being crampy as it was, LOL. But it is nice to know you can have it done.

  • I get my papsmeaer and pelvic exam on Tuesday 21 2017 this year. I’m on my today of November 16 2016 and had longer periods of 15 or 16 day in the past few months, in 2009 I was diagnosed with the risk of heavy bleeding and ovarian cyst. I’m not sexually active but have massages my vaginal areas in the trigger points in which they hurt before menstruation in some months, some people women call it masturbation; over the years I have discovered trigger points in which hurt sometimes. Are there any other methods to helping pelvic discomfort besides self-vaginal massage? I try not to make it into a regular habit and appreciate another approach because I’m very skeptical in talking to my primary care physician about this and.

    • You might want to get evaluated for endometriosis. It might involve an invasive procedure like laparoscopic surgery.

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