WARNING: I’m going to be relatively graphic in this blog post. If you are very young or are not OK with this kind of thing, I’d suggest finding a more delicately worded article or post about smear tests to read because the last thing I want to do is upset or offend anybody.
Last week I booked myself in for my first smear test at my local doctors. I should have had my first one three years ago when I turned 25 but I was pregnant at the time with Leland and wasn’t made aware that 12 weeks post delivery I could have booked myself in for one. As soon as I received my letter this time around, I booked straight in.
As you can imagine, as this was my first smear test I was absolutely terrified! Even though I have had a child, the thought of some stranger being up close and personal with my vagina is not a pleasant thought.
Last night before my visit I found myself worrying about if I should shave? should I just tidy it up? What if she touched my legs? Should I shave my legs too? What do I wear? Should I wear nice knickers? Will she even care if I do none of the above? The nurse had probably seen a lot worse than mine, right? What if mines the worst she’s seen?
In the end as I sat with a razor in my hand contemplating what the Hell I was supposed to do, I decided to go for a general tidy up and yes, I did shave my legs too and went to bed.
I spent most of the night up peeing, (When I get nervous I pee…A lot, alright?) so after dropping Leland off at school, I nipped home for a shower and gave myself a good old scrub down then toddled off to the doctors surgery.
After a 10 minute wait, my name flashed up on the screen and I made my way through the maze that is the doctors surgery and found the room I was supposed to be in.
The nurse greeted me with a smile and sat me down at her desk as she asked a few general questions about my health and my periods and why I hadn’t been before now. When I told her I was unaware, she seemed very upset and we both agreed that there should be more information for women like me who missed their first one due to lack of information. She then asked me to behind the curtain and undress from the waist down and pop myself up on the bed. I’m not sure if any of you have the same problem but the beds in my doctors surgery are a nightmare to get up onto with any kind of dignity. It’s a very similar motion to getting out of a swimming pool. You have to hoick yourself up with your arms and then fling your leg over and hope to God that the frosted glass windows are frosty enough for any passers by not to get a view of your struggling backside flapping about trying to get up on the bed, all the while you’re trying your hardest not to rip the stupidly delicate paper towel that they’ve put over the bed for hygiene reasons.
I’m fairly sure she heard my internal scream as she laughed when she came around the corner armed with some pretty terrifying utensils, told me to lay down… This is when my second drama unfolded… I am a fairly tall woman and let me tell you, when I shuffled down to try and get comfortable, I almost slipped off the bed because I was far too tall for the bloody thing. Luckily my nurse was the loveliest woman who took me and all of my dreadful misfortune in her stride. After giggles from both of us, she asked if I would like her to talk me through what was happening as she did it. I told her I didn’t mind.
She asked me to put my feet together and pull them up towards my ‘bottom’ as she so polity put it. Then she showed me what is called a Vaginal Speculum which in all honesty looks like one of those kids toys where you squeeze the lever at the bottom and the mouth opens. She then lubed it up and slipped it inside. From there she took the Vaginal Broom and had a good old poke about inside, commenting that ‘I can see your cervix nice and clear. It looks healthy enough’ … Uh, thanks Liz…
Then it was over. She popped the broom in a little pot, popped a label on it and asked me to sit up and get dressed again before disappearing off behind the curtain again.
I got dressed again and went to sit back down at her desk where she explained that my sample would be sent a letter in two weeks with the results. She also told me that out of 100 women, the average of a normal result is 94, 6 of those have an abnormal reading and are invited to have another test, out of the 6 the average of women invited for a coloscopy is 4. She also told me that after a smear, I may experience slight discomfort or bleeding but that is completely normal an not to worry.
And that was it, I thanked her for her time and she thanked me for making her laugh. Simple, quick and pain free.
This is what the NHS have to say about the screening in a shortened down version of what I have just written.
“Your screening appointment
The cervical screening test usually takes around five minutes to carry out. You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a couch, although you can usually remain fully dressed if you’re wearing a loose skirt.
The doctor or nurse will gently put an instrument, called a speculum, into your vagina. This holds the walls of the vagina open so the cervix can be seen. A small soft brush will be used to gently collect some cells from the surface of your cervix.
Some women find the procedure a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing, but for most women it’s not painful. If you find the test painful, tell the doctor or nurse, because they may be able to reduce your discomfort. Try to relax as much as possible, because being tense makes the test more difficult to carry out. Taking slow, deep breaths will help.
The cell sample is then sent off to a laboratory for analysis and you should receive the result within two weeks.”
If for whatever reason you are putting off your smear test, please don’t. Call and book an appointment. I promise you that it is not as bad as you think it will be. It might just save your life.
I know the thought of it isn’t nice and honestly, there are things I would much rather have been doing, but 10 minutes of embarrassment really can make a huge difference.
Of course, in the UK you have to be 25 to be entitled to a smear test. It is free on the NHS and it is completely your choice as to whether you have one or not. This post is not to force my opinion on people but to encourage those ladies who are maybe in two minds. Yes, it is embarrassing, but these nurses have probably seen thousands of vagina’s in their life. Yours is not going to stick in their mind.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
Have you had a weird, funny, good or bad experience during a smear test?
Lets chat and try to get rid of the stigma surrounding this topic.
As always take care =)