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Pregnancy & Prenatal Testing

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Pre-Conception: Pap Test and HPV Testing

A Pap test is used to screen a woman's cervix (the opening to the uterus) for cancer, pre-cancerous changes, inflammation, and some sexually transmitted diseases. HPV testing detects the high-risk types of the human papillomavirus, which increase a woman's risk of cervical cancer. Several health professional organizations recommend the following:

  • Screening with Pap tests should begin no earlier than age 21.
  • Women between the ages of 21 and 30 should have a Pap test every 3 years.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years (preferable); a Pap test alone every 3 years is also acceptable.

In most cases, if a woman has a negative HPV test and/or normal Pap test within the recommended interval, she will not require the tests when she becomes pregnant. If it has been more than the recommended time interval since the last cervical cancer screen, or if there are any questions about the status of the cervix, the healthcare practitioner may suggest screening pre-conception or at the beginning of the pregnancy.

Early detection of high-risk types of HPV, abnormal cervical cells, and infections and early treatment, if necessary, offer the best chance to prevent any problems from progressing and potentially affecting the health of the baby and the success of the pregnancy.