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When to get Pap?
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When to get Pap?

I'm eighteen years old, and in my entire life I've never received a "girly" check up. Since moving out of my parents' house recently, I've had to become more responsible for myself, and now more than ever I feel like I need to start asking questions.

My boyfriend of 4 years and I have been sexually active for a year now, and it's time I've decided to start using birth control. Somewhere I read that before getting birth control I need to have an exam, which really got my wondering what exactly this exam is.

I've read that it's more common to get a pap smear procedure when you're 21. Is this true, and should I wait?
I was told that if you get examined earlier on, you have a better chance at detecting anything that could threaten your body later, and since I'm sexually active and have had my period for years, I would think I should get the procedure about this time.

Does the pap smear exam hurt?
How long after the test will I know my results?

Are there any other check-ups or exams I should be considering now?
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If you get a standard gynecological exam, they will do a pap smear as a matter of course.  High time, for the exam and the birth control, if you have been sexually active for a year.  Your ob-gyn will be able to advise you on the HPV vaccine if you haven't had it.  

A pelvic exam is annoying because they put a speculum in your vagina and open it so they can look in.  But it is the only way to assure you are healthy.  It's pressure but not painful.  They swab your cervix with a long Q-tip when they are looking in, that is where they get the cells for the pap smear (which is a smear done on a microscope slide).  No, a pap smear doesn't hurt.  The speculum is the thing people dislike about a pelvic, but it is not the pap smear.  See if you can get a female ob-gyn, at least they know what it is like to have one and so tend to have a gentler touch.

Good for you, take care of your health.  The best thing about getting an ob checkup is that the doctor can give you advice, and that's worth a lot.
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