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RCOG release: Advice for women on cervical smear tests and pregnancy

News 20 March 2013

Women who are invited for their routine smear test while they are pregnant can wait until after their baby is born but there are circumstances when women should still attend for their smear or colposcopy, advises new patient information published today by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

In the UK cervical cancer is very rare because women are offered regular testing to detect changes in the cervix. If the smear test is abnormal a colposcopy can be carried out which looks at the cervix in more detail. With regular smear tests from their twenties it is not unusual for women to be called for a smear test during pregnancy. This new patient information explains when it is necessary to attend for smear tests and colposcopy during pregnancy.

The new patient information recommends that women who are called for a routine smear test while pregnant should delay until after their baby is born. Women should let their GP know they are delaying so they can be invited again.

However if women are called for a repeat smear following a previous smear abnormality, they should have the smear test whilst pregnant. This should ideally be done between three and six months of pregnancy, states the advice.

The leaflet also looks at the safety of attending colposcopy when pregnant. The procedure does not harm the baby and can provide valuable and reassuring information. Women with abnormal smear tests should attend their appointment. For follow-up appointments after treatment for an abnormal smear, whether a woman should attend or not depends on the severity of the abnormality, states the information.

Information is also given for women who have had treatment in the past for an abnormal smear, and are pregnant or are considering having a baby. Following treatment the majority of women will go on to have a successful and healthy pregnancy, however, there is a small risk of having a preterm birth depending on the treatment a patient received.

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said:

“Women are often unsure whether they should have a smear or attend colposcopy in pregnancy. This new patient information is designed to clarify when it is important to attend and when it is alright to put it off until after the baby is born. Women may also be concerned about future pregnancies if they have had treatment and we thought it would be useful to cover this as well in the leaflet.”

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network, added:

“This information is written in an accessible way and covers many of the questions women will have. The table explaining whether it is necessary to attend colposcopy is particularly helpful. Women may be anxious about undergoing smear tests or further investigations during pregnancy and this new information aims to answer any questions about treatment options and safety concerns.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email

The full patient information can be found here