*This post contains “graphic”/medical jargon in reference to women’s health issues and cervical cancer screenings.*
As we enter adulthood we have to deal with new scary things, although when you end up doing them, you learn that they just are not as terrifying as they once seemed. Smear tests are one of these things.
I had numerous gynaecologist visits when I had chronic abdominal pain, meaning they’d checked my lady bits out and aside from the cause of the abdominal pain, everything was a-okay. Then I was seeing my doctor late last year they realised I was overdue for a smear test so I was booked in for one.
I’m not sure why I was nervous. I’d had several doctors poking around down there during the aforementioned gynaecology appointments, so what was the big deal? Logically, nothing. But illogically, ah some nurse was going to be inspecting my vagina. I read Louise’s wonderful blog post about this topic, and checked out what the National Screening Unit had to say about cervical smear tests.
What was I worried about? My down-there hair? Yes. What undies I should wear? Yes. My cleanliness? Yes. Whether my vagina looked “different” or “weird”? Yes. Yes to everything. But I got over it by reminding myself that the nurse does this all the time. Doctors and nurses aren’t looking at our bodies and judging them. They’re keeping us healthy and safe. So bearing that in mind, I did a general clean and tidy and wore nice, normal undies.
I went to my appointment, and the nurse asked me some standard questions about my health and periods and such. She got out little pictures and charts and showed my how it was all going to work and then we got to it. She got her instruments (bleugh, sorry) sorted and I went behind the curtain, took my knickers off and laid down on the bed with the wee blanket on top. The way it goes is you have your feet together, legs apart and she inserts the speculum (sounds gross but hey, what can you do), then a little brush to get the swab and bam, you’re done. It’s such a quick process, I don’t know why I was nervous. It didn’t hurt, it was barely even a small amount of discomfort.
These procedures, while a little awkward and uncomfortable, are so important. STI checks, regularly gynaecology check-ups and smear tests, they are all vital to keeping you safe and preventing you from being blindsided further down the road. So don’t put them off. Make sure you’re staying on top of your health and taking care of your body by knowing what’s going on. The Ministry of Health says that 160 women in New Zealand develop Cervical Cancer each year and that approximately 50 die. While these are lower than some health statistics, they can be decreased by ensuring that all women are getting their regular 3 yearly smears. The UK has increasing rates of cervical cancer due to women being too shy or scared or busy to get their smears. So let’s kick cervical cancer’s ass before it even comes by making sure we’re on the ball with our smear tests!
My top tips for getting your smear test (especially first timers) are:
Clean up beforehand
Have a good shower, maybe tidy up your down-there hair, do whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Wear your big girl pants
Put on whatever undies make you feel ready to rock your smear test. Nothing lacy or too sexy, just comfortable and nice.
Perhaps wear a dress or a skirt
For ease of getting changed, since you have to whip off your bottom half. I wore a dress which I kept on and just had to take off my knickers. The lovely nurse still gave me a blanket to put on, but it was nice and easy.
These sorts of procedures only work if you and your muscles are relaxed, so just lie down and think of England. Deep, calm breathing, not stressing or worrying about whatever’s going on down there. It’ll be over before you know it.
I think that keeping on top of your health is such a girl power thing to do. It makes you feel good and safe and empowered and like you’re being responsible and respectful towards your body. So tell your friends, that if you’re overdue a smear test or haven’t ever had one, that it’s really not scary. It’s a good, important thing.
Have you a had a good experience getting a smear test? Anyone else nervous before theirs? Share in the comments, let’s open some dialogue y’all!