Pelvic Pain After Pap Smear

Is it normal to experience pelvic pain after a pap smear?

Key Takeaways

  • Pelvic pain occurs mainly in the lower abdominal area
  • Pap smear can result in many complications, including pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, and cramping
  • Physical therapy can help relieve pelvic pain, restore strength, flexibility, and function of the muscles and joints in the pelvic area

If you’re experiencing pain in the area below your belly button and above your legs, you may have a pelvic floor problem. A lot goes into the pelvic area; it’s home to your uterus (womb), ovaries, cervix, urinary bladder, bowel, and more.

Pelvic pain can be a sign that there is a problem with one of the organs in the pelvic area. If you’re a woman, you might also feel pain during your period.

While pelvic pain in women is often related to conditions affecting the reproductive system, many other causes, such as a pap smear, can also be the culprit.

In this article, we’ll examine the causes of pelvic pain after a pap smear, possible complications, and diagnosis. But first, a quick primer on pap smears.

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What Is a Pap Smear?

A pap smear or pap test is a screening procedure carried out on a sample of cells from the cervix to check for abnormalities that may be indicative of cervix cancer. To get a sample of these cells, a doctor must scrape the lining of your cervix.

According to the CDC, women should begin pap smear screening at the age of 21. A pap smear takes place similarly to a standard pelvic exam in your doctor’s office. Your doctor will place your feet in stirrups and use a speculum to widen your vaginal opening.

The speculum is necessary because it enables your doctor to get a clear view of the cervix. Your doctor will use a special tiny brush or scraper to collect a sample of cells from your cervix. That sample is then taken to a lab for analysis.

If your pap test results come back normal, doctors recommend you wait three years until your next one. If abnormal changes to your pelvic cells are detected in the pap smear, your doctor may order another test or recommend a biopsy called colposcopy.

It’s important to note that if your pap smear result is abnormal, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer, but you’ll likely need some further testing.

Is It Normal to Experience Pelvic Pain During Pap Smear?

While pap smear is a routine examination, that doesn’t absolve it from potentially causing pain in the pelvic region.

Pain and discomfort are normal because this area of our body is very sensitive.

After a pap test, blood rushes to your cervix and other reproductive organs. Pain and irritation may result from the cervical scratch during the extraction process.

The pain might be steady, or it might come and go. It can be a sharp and stabbing pain (like a small pinch) or a dull pain that is spread out.

Possible Complications of a Pap Smear

Aside from pelvic pain, other complications that may arise following a pap smear include:

1. Pelvic Discomfort

It’s common to feel a little pain after a pap test. In some cases, however, you may experience slight sensations or pelvic discomfort while your doctor extracts cervical cells. Pelvic discomfort is usually temporary and will go away as soon as the pap test is completed.

2. Vaginal Bleeding

Scraping cells from your cervix can inflame or irritate this region of your reproductive system. This can result in vaginal bleeding.

Vaginal bleeding is usually mild and typically disappears within 24 hours of the pap test. In some cases, your vaginal secretions may carry an abnormal pink hue or contain small amounts of blood. If you experience persistent bleeding after a pap test, contact a doctor.

3. Cramping

It’s not uncommon to experience abdominal cramping after a pap smear. However, severe cramping isn’t normal. If abdominal cramping persists, you can take over-the-counter pain medication if cleared by your doctor.

Symptoms that May Call for a Medical Check-Up

Although discomfort, mild pain, and light bleeding are common after the screening, sometimes concerning symptoms may appear after a pap test. Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Severe cramping
  • Bleeding larger amounts than typical spotting
  • Heavy bleeding that requires more than one pad in an hour
  • Bleeding that gets heavier, not lighter, after the test
  • Bleeding that lasts longer than three days
  • Dark blood with clots or very bright red blood

Although irregular cervical bleeding is a sign of cancer, do not assume this is the cause without seeking a doctor’s opinion. Sometimes, bleeding following a pap smear can be a sign of many other issues, including pregnancy and vaginal infections.

Treatment

In most cases, pelvic pain that results from pap smears will subside within a day or two. But if symptoms persist, there are a few treatment options you can try out, including.

Physical Therapy

In women, the uterus is held in place at the top of the pelvic floor by muscles, tendons, and connective tissue.

When you have a pelvic floor dysfunction, your pelvic muscles can’t relax or function as they should. And if these muscles can’t relax, you may have:

  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Trouble controlling your bowels
  • Pain during sex in women
  • Constipation

If you’re experiencing pain in the pelvic area—whether due to a pap smear or not—pelvic floor therapy may be the key to relief. A review of Physical Therapy in the Management of Women with Chronic Pelvic Pain published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that physical therapy is an effective treatment for CPP.

Physical therapy can help restore strength, flexibility, and function to the muscles and joints in the pelvic region.

This involves exercises for strengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles to improve core stability and control over many functions of the various organs in the pelvic region. A physical therapist can assist you with these exercises and help you develop coping strategies for the pain.

Prescription Drugs

Depending on the cause and the severity of the pain, your doctor may prescribe some medications to treat your condition, such as pain relievers, antibiotics, etc.

Wrapping Up

Regular pap smears are essential for screening for cervical cancer and other abnormalities in the reproductive tract. While pelvic pain after a pap test is common, in most cases, it subsides within a few days. Should the pain persist for a longer period than usual, consult your doctor, as this may be a sign of infection.