I think a lot of women, like myself wonder if having a Cervical Screening Test (also known as a Smear Test) can affect your chances of conception. I know I questioned myself exactly this when I got my reminder letter in the post.
For me, my health is really important and I think that having a Cervical Screening Test is equally important. I remember getting my first letter through the post and I was so scared and worried about it, but there really isn’t anything to worry about.
What is a Cervical Screening Test??
Well, it’s a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Detecting and removing abnormal cells can prevent cervical cancer. It’s possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women around 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25. All women who are registered with a GP are invited for a cervical screening:
Aged 25 to 49 – Every three years
Aged 50 to 64 – Every five years
Over 65 – Only women who haven’t been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests.
What happens when you go for a cervical screening test??
Firstly you’ll receive a letter through the post asking you to arrange an appointment. Most women choose to go to their GP but it may also be available at a well woman clinic or sexual health clinic. Screening is usually carried out by the practice nurse. Try to book your appointment during the middle of your menstrual cycle (usually 14 days from the start of your last period). It ensures that a better sample of cells is taken. If you use a spermicide, a barrier method of contraception or a lubricant jelly, you shouldn’t use those for 24 hours before the test, as the chemicals they contain may affect the test.
It literally only takes 5 minutes for the nurse to do the test and it doesn’t hurt, it might feel a little uncomfortable for some women but for me it was actually much easier this time and I felt much more relaxed. I was asked a series of questions before the test was done, things like my contraception methods, whether I’m trying for a baby, when my last period was, when I last had sex, those sorts of things. If you are ever unsure of anything ask the nurse or let her know if you are feeling nervous or anxious, she will go by your pace.
The nurse was happy to go ahead with my test, before we did the test though I had a few questions for her, she was really informative and it helped put my mind at ease. For my ladies that are trying for a baby it’s recommended that you speak to your GP and ask whether you’re up to date with all your cervical screening tests.
If your pregnant and are invited to go for a test it’s always better to phone and let your GP know that you’re pregnant and they can invite you to make another appointment 3 months after your baby is due. The main reason for not being able to go through with the test is because pregnancy can make your results harder to interpret. However if this is a repeat smear due to previous abnormality and have been called during a pregnancy then you should still have your test whilst pregnant. The best time to have this done is between 3-6 months of pregnancy.
Can a cervical screening test cause a miscarriage in early pregnancy??
This is a maain concern for a lot of women, including myself and the answer is no, it can’t but that doesn’t mean you can’t rule it out completely. Some women do experience spotting after having the test. Usually, the fertilised egg is implanted higher up in the uterus and not near the cervix. Even in the event that the fetus is implanted lower in the uterus and closer to the cervix, the cervix is thick in the first trimester, so light scraping from a cervical screening test would not disturb an implanted fertilised egg.
Unfortunately though, since roughly 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage some women do inevitably miscarry after a smear test. Some women may even start to have symptoms of a miscarriage the same day as their smear test. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the test caused the miscarriage, it’s more likely that the symptoms of miscarriage coincidentally happened to appear after the cervical screening test.
If you’re worried at all about having a cervical screening test during early pregnancy please discuss any concerns with your GP or midwife. I really hope that this hasn’t put you off going for your routine test. I’m so glad I’ve done it and that I go every 3 years, I feel so much better after the information that I was given. Now, it’s just a case of waiting 4-6 weeks for the results.