What is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is a test that screens for cervical cancer or abnormal cells in the cervix. These abnormal cells can be caused by precancerous conditions or sexually transmitted infections. To get a sample of these cells, your doctor must scrape the lining of your cervix, which is the opening of your uterus. Because the lining of our cervix is sensitive, the pap test may cause bleeding and some reactivity. Typically, sensitivity or bleeding after a pap smear is light and resolves on its own.
What To Expect During a Pap Test
A pap smear test takes place similarly to a standard pelvic exam in your doctor’s office. You will lie down on the exam table, and your feet will be placed in the stirrups, and the doctor will use a speculum to widen the vaginal opening. The speculum is necessary because it allows your doctor to probably see the upper vagina and cervix to take an accurate sample of cells.
To take a sample of your cells, your doctor uses a scraper or brush to collect the cells from the cervix. This sample is sent to a lab to screen for health conditions. If abnormal changes to your cervical cells are present on your pap smear, your doctor may order another test or recommend a cervical exam and biopsy called a colposcopy.
Discomfort and bleeding or cramping after a pap smear is normal because this area of our body is so sensitive. After a pap smear or pelvic exam, blood rushes to the cervix and your other reproductive organs. This is why the irritation and bleeding from the cervical scratch or scrape may occur. On the other hand, some effects are not normal, such as bleeding after a pap smear for a week, heavy bleeding, or severe pain.
What Are Factors That May Increase Bleeding After Pap Smear Test?
Several factors may increase bleeding after a pap smear, bleeding and cramping after a pap smear, or bleeding after a pap smear during pregnancy. It is helpful to be aware of those causes and identify the source of your discomfort or symptoms.
Birth Control Pills
Hormonal contraception, including birth control pills, and otherwise, elevate your hormone levels. Because your hormones are increased on this medication, bleeding after a pap smear test is more likely. Our cervix is more sensitive to an elevation in hormones as well, so mild pain or cramping can also be expected after the test.
Vaginal infections, including STIs, STDs, and/or yeast infections, can make your cervix tender, and because of this, those blood vessels in the vagina may cause bleeding after a pap smear test from the cervix.
Bleeding After Pap Smear During Pregnancy
If you are experiencing bleeding after a pap smear during pregnancy, do not worry. It is normal to experience more bleeding after your pap test when pregnant because, during pregnancy, the cervix develops extra blood vessels. The blood vessels can become irritated during the collection of cells and bleed.
It is worth noting that any bleeding should cease within hours or, at most, two days. During pregnancy, the increased weight of the uterus puts pressure on your cervix, making it even more prone to bleeding. A Pap test will not cause miscarriage, and light bleeding after the test does not point to pregnancy loss. If bleeding progresses and becomes heavy or causes cramps, we recommend contacting your doctor.
Sensitive Cervical Tissue
A friable cervix is a condition in which the vaginal tissue tears or bleeds more easily upon touching it. This irritable and overly sensitive vaginal tissue may lead to heavier bleeding or spotting after a pap smear test. With a friable cervix, spotting is common after other things, too, such as intercourse or penetration.
The friable cervix can be triggered by inflammation of cervical tissue from injury or infection, sexually transmitted infection, or cervical ectropion, which happens when cells from within the cervix move to the outer cervical layer. If you are experiencing signs of a friable cervix, ask your doctor what you can do to relieve your symptoms.
Polyps in the cervix are benign growths on the cervical canal, connecting the uterus to the vagina. After a pap smear test, a cervical polyp might bleed, which will increase blood presence after your exam. Doctors usually find cervical polyps during a pap test or vaginal procedure and remove or biopsy them as necessary.
Irregular vaginal bleeding is one of the main symptoms of cervical cancer, as the bleeding is generally coming from the cervix. Because a pap smear can irritate cervical tissue, additional bleeding may occur. People who have cervical cancer may experience bleeding during or after exercise, during or after sex, or between periods. If irregular bleeding develops, contact your doctor.
Although a pap smear may cause some mild, unwanted symptoms, it is vital to test and screen for cancer and other health conditions to keep yourself safe and healthy.
How Long Does Bleeding After Pap Smear Test Last
If the cause of bleeding is normal, such as from the cervical scrape itself, bleeding and spotting should end within a few hours. Over the span of two days, light spotting may persist. Bleeding after a pap smear for a week is not normal unless the test coincides with your menstrual cycle.
If you experience bleeding after a pap smear, it is best to avoid tampons and vaginal penetration, such as intercourse for up to three days after the test. This will allow the area to heal and will help to avoid additional bleeding as well.
Symptoms That May Be Cause for Concern After Pap Smear Test
Although light bleeding or spotting is common after the screening, sometimes, concerning symptoms may present after the pap smear test. This includes heavy bleeding and cramping after a pap smear, bleeding after a pap smear for a week, and more. It is helpful to identify more serious symptoms and reach out to your physician.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Severe cramping
- Bleeding more than spotting
- Heavy bleeding that requires a pad
- Bleeding that gets heavier during a pap test
- Bright red blood or dark clotted blood
- Bleeding that persists after three days
Although irregular cervical bleeding is a sign of cancer, do not assume this is the cause without speaking to your doctor about your symptoms first. Bleeding after a pap smear may be caused by pregnancy or vaginal infection as well. If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed, promptly reach out to your physician. This test should never cause significant or debilitating pain.
A Closing Note From University Park OBGYN
We have established that because the cervix is such a sensitive area, it is common for women to experience light bleeding and cramping after a pap smear, even if there is no pre-existing condition, infection, or cancer.
If you have experienced bleeding with a previous pap smear or are experiencing irregular bleeding in general, consult your doctor. Never feel nervous or embarrassed to ask your doctor any questions you may have about the exam and how you can expect your results! We are here to help and make this test as easy as possible for our patients. Visit our website or give us a call today to schedule your pap smear test!