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Is It Normal To Bleed After a Smear Test?

An expert weighs in.

Smear tests - or cervical screenings, as they're also often called - come around every three years for most women. When you reach the age of 25, you're called in for the procedure, and it's important to attend because it can detect pre-cancerous cells in the cervix which may ultimately end up saving your life.

But because of the nature of a cervical screening, which involves a cylindrical instrument called a speculum being inserted into the vagina, the ins and outs of what happens during and afterwards aren't always broadly discussed. And that can leave people with questions, like whether or not it's normal to bleed after a smear test.

Is it normal to bleed after a smear test?

It turns out, bleeding after a cervical screening is not unheard of. "After a smear test, some people might have some light bleeding (or spotting)," explains Imogen Pinnell, Health Information Manager at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. And you can rest assured if you're one of them, because Imogen says this is "fairly common and does not mean you have cell changes."

You're more likely to experience spotting after a smear test if you have a cervical ectropion, explains the expert. A cervical ectropion is a harmless, common condition which occurs more frequently in younger people, and happens "when cells from inside the cervical canal (called glandular cells) are present on the outside surface of the cervix.

"These cells are red, so the area may look red. If you have this, your nurse can usually see it during cervical screening. It won’t cause problems for most women and doesn’t usually require treatment," says the expert.

A cervical ectropion can also be a harmless cause of bleeding after sex. So if this is something you've experienced previously, don't be alarmed if you lightly bleed after intercourse following a smear test.

How long can you bleed for after a cervical screening?

"If you bleed, it should stop within a few hours," advises Imogen. If the bleeding doesn’t stop or gets heavier, however, the expert suggests going to see your GP as soon as possible. "It's probably nothing to worry about, but it is still important to get it checked," she adds.

Are there any other symptoms I might notice after a smear test?

Although a smear test sounds kind of intrusive and a bit embarrassing, really it's not. You may experience slight discomfort (this is more likely if you have a 'tilted' cervix) but the procedure barely lasts a minute, and shouldn't leave you in pain afterwards.

The only other side effect some people can experience following a smear test is anxiety about the results. "It’s completely normal to worry about your results and it can be a very anxious time," acknowledges Imogen, who adds: "Try to remember that cervical cancer is very rare and, by going for a smear test, you’ve reduced your risk by about 75%."

And when you put it like that, it seems surprising anyone would want to forgo the test at all.