You might have read the news about smear tests in the media lately and the shocking stats that 1 in 3 women decide not to go because they’re embarrassed. I hope that you’re one of the other two. Or even one of those encouraging others to take it by sharing your #smearforsmear selfie on social media. I shared mine yesterday on the same day I went for a smear test. It was well overdue, not by choice but because I don’t think that the NHS invite us often enough to have it done. If I could decide, I think we should start earlier than the age of 25 and go every other year, at least.
This was my fourth cervical screening I’ve had done and like previous tests, this was over so quickly. There’s no excuse not to go ladies. Our health is the most important thing and if that means we need to feel uncomfortable for 3 minutes every three years or so – so be it! It’s free so let’s take advantage and also, you’d be so upset with yourself for not going and later find out that you have cervical cancer.
I thought I’d share my first smear test story with you guys, why it didn’t discourage me to go back and some tips on what I do to fee less uncomfortable.
My First Smear Test
I admit, it did hurt the first time I went. Merely 23 (start age in Sweden) and I hadn’t really spoken to anyone about it before getting called in for an appointment. I had heard and read that it’s not painful so I didn’t reflect on it too much. When it was time to spread my legs and having a small sample taken from my cervix I tensed up and oh boy did it hurt.
I felt sick long afterwards, as if someone had punched me in my belly or I had a very bad day of menstrual cramps. Not even a McDonald’s meal helped (lol). I couldn’t believe I would have to go through this every 3 years for a very long period of my life. The next day I felt fine again and the smear tests I’ve taken since have all been pain free. As little as I wanted to go back again, knowing how much it hurt the first time, I went back. I tried to relax in the hopes it would ease the pain and it did!
Relaxing is Key
I try to relax as much as possible when the brush is up there doing its thing. It sounds awful I know, but it’s all for our own benefit, not because the nurse thinks it’s fun. I think about other things than what’s going on, like what to eat for tea or what I’m doing the following weekend. Closing my eyes and imagining I’m somewhere else also helps.
I totally get that it’s uncomfortable the first time as you don’t know what to expect. It would be weird if we didn’t feel a little bit uncomfortable spreading our legs in front of a stranger but if you’ve had a one night stand, what’s the difference? Apart from the nurse wanting to do a nice thing?
I’m sure that they’ve seen so many vaginas before that it’s pure routine and nothing else from their side. In fact, they have to take a smear test themselves, just as often as us, so they know exactly what we’re going through. If you feel uncomfortable, speak to them and they’ll do everything they can to ease your experience.
Personally, I find the part where I stand half naked, waiting to be asked to lie down worse. That’s when I feel most exposed.
Things I do in Preparation for a Smear Test To Feel More Comfortable
- Shower as close to the appointment as possible. Most likely the test appointment will fall during work hours but a morning shower is sufficient
- Shave my legs and have a general tidy around the personal area
- Wear underwear I feel comfortable in
- Wear loosely fitted clothing. A dress or skirt is good as you can roll these up on your hip, rather than having to take off trousers
What’s your experience from cervical screening? Have you had your smear test booked in lately? If not, make sure to get it done!
For more information about everything smear test related, check out the NHS and Jo’s Trust websites. In two weeks time I’ll have the result from yesterday’s screening. Let’s hope it’s a negative/normal (no abnormality) result.