An Anxious Girl's Guide To Your First Smear Test - Tackling The Day Of The Test

28 Jan 2020

Congratulations, you've reach the final frontier - the day of your smear test! There are two camps of people when this day rolls around. You're either totally unbothered about the whole thing and have no qualms about getting your va-jay-jay out. In fact, you're kind of looking forward to it so that you can just get on with your day. Or you're in the same boat as I was - positively terrified, stressed and kind of weepy. Yes, this is the final instalment of my An Anxious Girl's Guide To Your First Smear Test series, so buckle in, it's going to be a long one.

This is the most important step in the whole process. You've made the call, you've handled the build up to the day, but now you actually have to go and get the screening done. It can be quite a daunting thought for a lot of people and might not have actually felt like it was ever going to happen, but the day is here, so let's chat about my experience and the tips that I've got to make the day run a little more smoothly.

What was my smear test like?

So obviously, the reason why I've written this trio of posts and titled it the way that I have is because I found the whole experience extremely nerve-wracking and it sent my anxiety haywire. And I realise that there are going to be plenty of women that read this who may feel the same, so I'm about to get real honest and potentially TMI.

Before the test
Before the day of my test, I had booked a half day at work. I was tempted to book a full day, but I didn't want to be stewing in my anxiety at home. I decided that being at work would keep my mind distracted and I would feel happier being around my work pals. I had my clothes picked out at home and had a plan of how to go about the afternoon. My test wasn't til 3:20PM, so I had a bit of time to kill.

At lunch time, I headed home, picking up some parcels from the Post Office on the way, basically just going about as normally as I could. I got in, ran myself a bath because I wanted to feel as relaxed and squeaky clean as possible, whilst trying to make it as quick as possible. In true Olivia style, I got a bit too cosy in the bath, meaning that I had to rush to get sorted. I had to dry my hair, apply a bit of makeup, iron my clothes and get out of the door. I also took two paracetamols about an hour before my test time, as this was suggested to me when I called to make the appointment.

This isn't how I had planned for the process to go. I wanted to be chilled out and ready for what was going to happen at the GP. Instead, I was hot and flustered, and kind of angry, so when I got into the surgery, just five minutes before the appointment, I was completely on edge. I was fidgeting, fanning myself and just generally uncomfortable.
During the test
It wasn't long before the nurse called me and during the walk to the room, she asked me how I was feeling. I realised that there was no point in trying to be brave, so I told her that I was absolutely terrified. Her response? 'If I had £10 for everyone who said that to me, I'd be set for life', which just goes to show how not alone we are in feeling scared. Once in the room, she gave me the opportunity to ask questions, talk about how I was feeling and discuss the whole process. It was reassuring to say the least, and I could feel my heartbeat slowing to a normal rate.

After asking the mandatory questions, like 'is there a chance you could be pregnant?' and 'when was your last period?', it was time for me to hop on to the bed. The nurse pulled the curtain around me whilst I took off my shoes and underwear, then I lay on the bed with my feet flat and knees pointing upwards, with my skirt held over my thighs. She asked if I was ready for her to come through and when she did, she talked me through the correct way to position my legs (feet together, knees falling outwards and bum scooped under slightly).

From this point on, I was kind of over the whole thing. I didn't really mind that my hoo-ha was on display (this was the thing that I was most nervous about and once it was there and in the open, I didn't really care), and I wasn't entirely nervous about the speculum anymore.

The nurse talked me through each step, so she said that she was going to insert the speculum, which was an odd feeling. It wasn't cold because she'd been carrying the lube in her pocket, but it was certainly unusual. Then the speculum was opened, which gave me a weird, stretching feeling. It pinched a little bit, but it wasn't painful and I've got a super low pain threshold, so you can take my word for it. She then took a look, said my cervix looks healthy, then swirled the brush against the opening of my womb about five times. This was the strangest feeling because obviously, nothing tends to brush up against your cervix like that, and it's like a very slight scratching. Again, it wasn't painful, just kind of uncomfortable and unusual.
And then it was done! She took the speculum out and left to add my sample into its pot. I didn't have any blood in my sample, so I was ok to get my underwear back on without the sanitary towel that she offered to me and get on my way. In total, the whole experience, from entering the room to putting my knickers back on took about 10 minutes, and the shortest amount of time was spent on the bed. Honestly, the actual test was over and done with in less than a minute.

After the test
I left the surgery and drove home, which was a bit uncomfortable because I was yet to wipe off the remainder of the lube, but I was feeling positive and super proud of myself. I managed to avoid any severe cramps, thanks to the paracetamol that I had before my test, and I didn't bleed at all. I treated myself to a Costa pink hot chocolate and had a chat to my friend about how it all went.

Overall, the experience was a really positive one and I know that I'm lucky to have that. The nurse complimented me on how relaxed I was (even though I felt stressed to my eyeballs), which is key to a test like this, because obviously, if you're tensed up, the muscles down there are less likely to give way to the speculum. And now, I'm playing the waiting game to hear back about my results!

In the meantime though, let's have a chat about some things that you can do to make your test a lot more comfortable and easier to manage.

Tips for tackling the day of your smear test

Wear a dress or a skirt
This is something that I think absolutely every woman will tell you, but honestly, wear a dress or a skirt to your smear test. If you don't, you'll need to remove your bottoms as well as your underwear, so if you're comfortable with being naked from the waist down, then that's a totally cool option for you. If not though, you can protect your modesty a bit and avoid using the weird piece of papery material that they give you to put over your legs.

Ask questions
The nurse isn't just there to inspect your foof. They're also there to help you dispel any myths or answer any questions that you might have. Don't be afraid to take the time to rattle off anything that's been whirring about in your head before the test! I asked:

  • How long it would take for me to receive the results
  • How I need to position my legs
  • How the HPV vaccine has impacted diagnoses
  • Would I need to do anything after the test

Basically, no question is a stupid question, so ask away!

Be honest about how you feel
The best thing I did was tell the nurse that I was terrified because it instantly let her know that I needed a bit more than just 'whip your knickers off and get on the bed'. By being open, I showed her that this truly was my first time and I needed some reassurance and a bit of a chat before we got down to business. Don't be afraid to say that you're nervous, anxious, scared or any other emotion that you may be feeling. Let her help you to stay calm.

Take two paracetamol an hour before your appointment
Many women get slight cramps after they've had their smear, so think ahead and take a couple of paracetamol an hour before your appointment. This was told to me by the receptionist when I booked my test, and I'm so grateful that she let me in on the tip! I had a teensy bit of cramping a few hours later in the day, but it wasn't painful - it was just a tiny tiny niggle.

Take a day off or a half day, if you can
If you're able to, take the day or the half day off from work. I really didn't want to have to leave for my appointment and come back to work. I just wanted to get it done, then reward myself by chilling out at home. If you're like me and want to keep your mind busy leading up to the test, go for a half day, but if you need some time to really zen out, take the whole day off.

Have someone waiting for you, either in person or at the other end of the phone
It is so comforting and reassuring knowing that you have someone that you can talk to as soon as you leave the nurse's room. Granted, you might not be able to grab somebody to wait for you in the waiting room, but knowing that you have a familiar voice at the other end of the phone can be really helpful. I know that as soon as I left the GP, I wanted to tell the world that I'd managed to do my test and survive!

Pamper yourself beforehand
For me, I knew that I would get more confident if I was happier in my appearance, which is why I ran myself a bath before going alone. I shaved my legs, tidied myself up a bit down there and made myself feel all fresh and clean. I wanted to do my makeup too, but didn't have the time, so settled for brows and mascara. This was definitely a big help for me, because even though I know that the nurse wouldn't give two hoots about my cactus legs, it would make me feel better about the whole experience.

Phew, I think that covers pretty much everything! I hope that there has been some gem of information in this post that has resonated with you, whether it was something from my experience story or a certain tip that I've offered up. Either way, it's been a total joy to write up and share my story with you all! Now that I've tackled my first test, here's to hoping that the results come back clear and I don't need another until three years time!

Now, I'm definitely not going to preach here, but it has to be said. This whole experience wasn't as awful as I expected it to be. Yes, it was nerve-wracking and I was very anxious, hence the title of this little series, but actually going through it wasn't as bad as I had expected. If you read my 'Why I Haven't Had A Smear Test Yet' post, you'll know that I have phone anxiety, I'm scared of medical professionals and I seriously lack body confidence, but I overcame them and did this thing.

And if I can do it, I know that you can too. It might not feel like it right now, but go back and read through the other two posts in this little series, and take a bit of comfort from them. Come and join me and millions of other women, and let's kick HPV's butt!

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