I know for some this will be majorly TMI but I trust that those people wouldn’t have clicked on the post or at very least as they’re reading that yes, this is in fact going to be about cervical smears that they will make their exit now. It’s not something people talk about but it could save your life.. we SHOULD be talking about it. When people say ‘you should go for a smear’ it conjures all kinds of images in your head, legs akimbo and major embarrassment so I thought I’d share my personal experience for those who might be nervous.. it’s not the most dignified thing you’ll ever do but it’s probably not the least either 😉
I only recently (as recently as last weekend) went for my first smear, my Mother (who screens them for a living) has been hounding me for years so it’s shameful that I put it off for so long BUT I had a reason. I first got my invitation when I was pregnant with Milo, I called the clinic and informed them I wasn’t able to attend and they said they’d make a note on my file to follow up after the birth. I then received 3 further ‘invitations’, each more menacing than the last.. they actually got quite threatening (as the NHS goes) and given my
irrational delicate emotional state it made me want to throw a chair at someone quite angry and just totally put me off the whole thing.
When you’re going in for something a bit intimate you want to feel comfortable and if you’re on the fence even the person on the phone when you call for an appointment can push you the wrong way. Now I didn’t put it off because I was nervous or shy but because it’s so damned awkward to get time during the week (doctors office hours) without one or both kids in tow and BELIEVE me when I say they do NOT need to see THAT! I discovered that my local family planning clinic was open on a Saturday for drop in appointments so turned up first thing, no waiting, straight in. Dunzo! I would 100% recommend your local family planning clinic over your GP for ANY ‘womens issues’ purely because it’s what they do day in day out and if we’re talking about something a bit more invasive I want someone who knows what they’re doing!! Of course knowledge and experience don’t always come in a super friendly package however, I’ve had exams from nurses who barely said two words to me but then some people might like that. I’d rather have some light conversation with a person before they enter me with a foreign object but hey.. that’s just me.
So when I rocked up on Saturday morning I wasn’t sure what I was going to get, I was lucky and the nurse was lovely, EXTREMELY helpful and forthcoming with lots of advice and info on what would happen not only during the exam but once the sample was sent to the lab. She told me what to expect in terms of how long for results but also prepared me for the eventuality in which the result may not be what I was expecting. Given that my Mum IS the lab I knew a lot of it anyway but was pleasantly surprised at how far she went to put me at ease without me having to ask a single question. Now in the past I actually had the contraceptive coil (mirena for those wondering) so I’m all too familiar with the speculum and internal inspections of this kind, FYI – if any of you have ever had ‘swabs’ taken and are nervous to go for a smear – it’s pretty much the same thing so you needn’t be. For me the most uncomfortable part is the insertion of the speculum (if you’re drawing a blank here’s google images – you get the idea) but it’s not at all painful. Not to be crude but unless you’re a virgin this wont be a totally foreign concept it’s just a totally bizarre situation in which it’s happening and it’s ONLY uncomfortable if you can’t relax – ie: me. Have you ever tried to MAKE yourself relax? I swear to Lucifer it’s IMPOSSIBLE! Anyway.. so the speculum is in there and they can see what they need to see, from there they basically brush your cervix, imagine if you will that you’re cleaning a glass.. similar thing – they twist a little to get the sample cells and they’re done. That part is a really odd sensation but again not painful and apparently some people can’t even feel it – those people probably have painless child births too so whoopeedoo for them!
To recap with a TOUCH more detail for those who have NO idea what a pelvic exam involves, you’re clothed from the waist up and covered with paper towels to protect your modesty (you have NO modesty, this is clearly so you don’t make awkward eye contact with the person doing the exam), you bend your legs and ‘RELAX’ while they insert the speculum and adjust so that they have a clear shot at your cervix then they sweep a brush around for a second and your done. It’s quick and painless and you have almost as much control of your comfort as the nurse does, if you’re a naturally relaxed person you can probably take a nap but for the rest of us it’s an odd 5 minutes that isn’t the way we’d choose to spend our Saturday morning but that might just save our lives!
If you want to share your experiences (I know not everyone had a good one but we generally learn from the bad ones so pass on your wisdom) feel free and if you have any questions I didn’t cover already let me know and I’ll do a follow up. As is the minimum age for a smear test is 25 (controversial and I wont even get in to it but that’s the current law) but if you have symptoms or cause for concern your GP can refer you at any age so don’t let that stop you from attending if you feel like you need something checked out! You can find lots more info online here and I hope my experience and the limited info I have was useful for some.