I find that smear tests are a subject that don’t get talked about very much, it’s almost a bit of a taboo topic, isn’t it? You don’t often hear a woman walking into the office like “oh morning everyone, just been for my smear test, anyone want a cup of tea?”. It just doesn’t happen, and I think the fact that it isn’t talked about means that women who are yet to experience a smear test often feel scared and nervous about what it’s going to be like. So, here I am today, baring all (not literally, you’ll be glad to know) and talking about my experiences with smear tests.
“So what is a smear test?” I hear you ask. Well, in short, it’s basically when a swab is taken of the inside of your cervix to check the health of it and test for any abnormal cells. It’s something that I’ve personally done twice already in my life; the rule in Scotland used to be that a smear test had to be done every three years from the age of twenty, but I think they’re now changing it to twenty-five. Both tests I’ve had have thankfully come back normal, and the process of getting the tests done took maybe ten minutes max.
What happens during smear tests?
Well, you go into your doctors office (it was actually a nurse that did both of mine) and they ask you some questions like “are you sexually active?”, “when was your last period?” etc, and then if it’s your first test they’ll explain how it works and make sure you’re not too nervous about it. When I went for my first smear test I was SUPER nervous, but the nurse was dead nice and took the time to explain what was going to happen and how long everything would take.
Then it’s time to drop your knickers, jump on the bed and spread ’em. In all seriousness though, you just remove your bottoms and lie down on the bed with a sheet of paper covering your modesty. It’s v classy I swear. So then the nurse comes in and she just asks you to spread your legs but keep the soles of your feet together, so your knees are wide apart and lying on the bed. I remember feeling so EMBARRASSED the first time, like everything is out and in full view. In hindsight though there’s nothing to really be embarrassed about because chances are, she does this multiple times a day and she doesn’t think twice about it. Nurses/doctors aren’t there to judge, they’re literally there to make sure you’re okay.
So now it’s time for the actual test. Now I ain’t gonna lie, it’s uncomfortable and it doesn’t feel good whatsoever. The nurse will insert an instrument called a speculum, which is basically a tool that holds the walls of the vagina open so your cervix can be seen. This bit doesn’t hurt too bad, although the nurse said to me “oh you might feel yourself clamp down on it, but just try to relax” and as soon as she said that EVERYTHING clamped down. Typical.
The nurse then takes a long cotton swab and basically swabs the inside of your cervix. For me, this was the most painful part. I say “most painful” but honestly it wasn’t bad at all, it just felt like period cramps for a few seconds. Like I said though, the whole process takes maybe ten minutes max and then it’s done.
And that’s literally it, like, nothing to be scared about AT ALL right? Yes it’s a tiny bit awkward the first time you go, having to bare all to a stranger. And yes it’s a tiny bit painful actually getting it done, but it’s nothing traumatising. I understand that maybe other people have had less positive experiences with their smear tests, and I feel bad for them, but I thought it would be helpful to read a positive experience to help with the anxiety of booking your first smear test.
Tips on how to relax before/during your smear test:
- Do not overthink it.
You’ll only end up making yourself more anxious about it and you’ll convince yourself that it’s going to be worse than it actually is.
- Watch some YouTube videos/read blog posts about it
Watching or reading someone’s experience about their smear tests might help you relax about the whole situation and give you a better idea of what to expect.
- Pee beforehand
Seems like a simple thing but if you’re like me and you have a nervous pee, make sure you go before the test. Trust me.
- Speak to your nurse or doctor
Tell them that you’re nervous and they’ll do everything they can to reassure you. My nurse was so lovely when I told her I was anxious about it and she put me at ease.
If you’re tense it’ll make it ten times worse. Just breathe through it and look around the room to take your mind off of it. Sidenote: when I went for my first smear test, this poster was on the ceiling and as hilarious as it may be, it helped me take my mind off of what was going on downstairs:
I really hope this post was at least a tiny bit helpful or reassuring. I haven’t read many blog posts about smear tests and I really wanted to share my experiences because they honestly weren’t bad at all. Please let me know if you’re been for a smear test recently and what you thought of it because I’d love to hear other people’s experiences too!