Abnormal pap smear following birth: Should I be concerned?

My pregnancy had a few difficulties, and my doctor decided to induce labor. All is well now, except that I just had the results of my Pap smear (six weeks after giving birth) and it is not quite normal. Could you please tell me if it is common to have an irregular Pap after delivery and, if so, what causes it?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

It is not uncommon to have a Pap smear showing inflammatory changes at the six-week postpartum check. (Even diaphragm gel can cause the Pap to indicate irregularities.) Labs today include a description of what the irregularity is and recommendations for followup, so I would ask your health-care provider for more information. If it is just inflammation, repeat the test in a few weeks to be sure it has cleared up. If it is "atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance," the test should be repeated in three months. If the cause is vaginitis or warts (caused by HPV, or human papilloma virus), it should be treated. If it showed "CIN," or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, you should have another examination called a colposcopy.

At six weeks the cervix is not totally healed and if the Pap did not show any other reasons for the irregularity, it is probably due to the birth. Keep in close touch with your health-care provider and follow his or her recommendations.

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