Possible Complications of a Pap Smear

A Pap smear is a gynecological test used to evaluate cervical cells in women. During this cervical cancer screening test, which is also called a Pap test, a small number of cells are removed from your cervix using a tiny brush. These cells are then examined in a laboratory for any type of abnormalities. While Pap smears typically do not cause complications, it is possible to have temporary discomfort or bleeding after this test.

A gynecologist and her patient are having a discussion. Credit: Tatyana Sokolova/iStock/Getty Images

Pelvic Discomfort or Pain

Most women do not experience pain after a Pap smear. In certain cases, however, you may feel slight sensations of pelvic discomfort, pressure or pain while your doctor removes cervical cells. Such complications are temporary and typically resolve as soon as the Pap smear is completed.


Mild abdominal cramping can occur as a possible complication of a Pap smear. You may experience abdominal cramping during or immediately after a Pap smear. This possible complication of a Pap smear is temporary and typically subsides shortly after treatment. If abdominal cramping is bothersome, you may take an over-the-counter pain medication, if cleared by your doctor.

Vaginal Bleeding

Scraping cells from the cervix can irritate or inflame this region of your reproductive tract. Consequently, you can experience vaginal bleeding after a Pap smear. Vaginal bleeding is typically mild and subsides within a day of the Pap smear. You may notice that your normal vaginal secretions appear unusually pink or contain small amounts of blood. If you experience persistent or profuse vaginal bleeding after having a Pap smear, contact your doctor.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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