I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like quite the expert at rolling up my sleeve and giving a blood sample. Come to think of it, I could probably stick the needle in myself! No matter how often I give yet another blood sample, I still hate it. The whole process makes me cringe.
But, I will say there's something I loathe even more than giving blood—having a Pap smear!
Making the Most of It
"What? A Pap smear?" you might be saying to yourself. "What does that have to do with being 24 weeks pregnant?" Well, I found out at my regular four-week checkup with my OB-GYN that my last Pap had been inconclusive and they wanted to redo it. I figured—great, thanks for telling me, and we can do that as soon as the baby comes out. Wrong. Here is the lovely gown, see you in a couple of minutes.
I was a frustrated for a moment and then decided that before my ankles were going anywhere near those wonderful foot stirrups I was going to get some answers. I wasn't going to go into this procedure without a little protest. When my smiling OB-GYN returned, before sliding back, I asked the million-dollar questions: Is this really necessary and will it hurt the baby? Of course I got the clinical answers that always involve some language I don't understand, was assured the baby wouldn't be harmed and told to scoot back so we can get this over with! I resigned myself to the stirrups and gritted my teeth.
When l got home, I googled "Pap smear" to figure out what all the hoopla is really about. First off, a little lesson in female anatomy. If you haven't discovered this yourself, there are a lot of areas that are part of your "female area" and the cervix is part of the whole shebang. It's located between the vagina and the uterus. My uterus is busy right now being used by my growing baby, and the cervix and vagina (or birth canal) are the wonderful areas that will allow the baby to come into the world. The vagina is the area that usually gets the most action from intercourse and such. But its true test comes during the birthing process where the vagina goes through lots of stretching and strain … but that's all fun stuff to talk about later!
Anyway, a Pap smear checks to make sure that there are no changes or abnormalities within your cervix, which can be a sign of infection or even potential cancer. It's a good idea to have a Pap prior to becoming pregnant just to make sure you're in good working order. If you haven't had one before, I will be honest: It's not the most enjoyable experience, but it's a smart thing to do.
During your Pap smear they will also look for HPV or Human Papilloma Virus. Don't get all scared and worried, this is a group of viruses that can possibly lead to changes or problems in the cervix and potentially cancer. A couple of years ago my Pap came back positive for HPV. I was just about ready to have a breakdown until I learned more about what it is, and realized that many people have it and sometimes it goes away on its own. Last year my Pap smear was clear of HPV. Add it to the long list of issues in my female health saga!
My doctor's visit this week wasn't all bells and whistles and happy baby moments—that's for sure! But, at least I'll know that my cervix is healthy and ready along with my vagina for the big day. Let me tell you, if you aren't starting to get familiar with these parts of your body yet, start getting there! Even if you are shy about your body, if you're pregnant and reading this right now, let me tell you, there are parts of you that aren't yours alone any more, and that includes the female area! There is a special thing growing in there, and you want to make sure that it's a healthy place for all involved!
Waist measurement: 40 inches
Weekly weigh-in: 162 pounds
Pregnancy symptoms: I'm feeling a little hungrier these days. I try to eat a really healthy, full breakfast—as much as I can eat! Lately I have been eating two eggs and an English muffin with a piece of fruit. That's a lot of food for someone who usually eats a small bowl of cereal if I'm lucky.
My pregnancy advice for the week: "You still need a Pap smear! Even if you're pregnant!" So says my OB-GYN. Ugh!
Pregnancy "first" of the week: I learned more about my reproductive area than I think I really needed to know. But, at least I'm well informed.
Doctor's visit: Regular four-week visit.
About the Photo: The above picture of the author was taken during her 24th week of pregnancy by Dean Lipoff.
Read the next installment: week 25