A couple of weeks ago, I had my first ever Smear Test – or as they’re now known, Cervical Screening.
‘Smear Test’ had so many negative connotations attached to it that appointment rates dropped and the NHS felt they had to re-brand it in order to encourage women to attend.
Media campaigns, such as live screenings, have been shown in an attempt to dispel myths surrounding pain, length of time and embarrassment. Celebrities and influencers have been sharing their experiences live on camera but I wanted to share my experience from an ordinary person’s perspective.
You know you’re due an appointment because the NHS, quite conveniently, sends you a letter indicating that it’s your turn. It is then up to you to call your GP surgery and book yourself in for an appointment.
I turned up to my GP’s surgery and checked in, just like any other surgery. I entertained myself with a Country Living magazine until I was called in.
Inside the room, the nurse asked me to confirm my name and address and if I was happy to go ahead with the examination. I said I was. I took off my leggings and underwear and hopped up on the bed. The nurse gave me a sheet to cover myself with until she was ready to begin.
Before I undressed, she showed me the equipment that she was going to use. I took a picture so you could see for yourselves too. Below, you will find a plastic speculum which comes in 4 different sizes, depending on whether or not you’ve had children. Small is usually used on women who have not given birth, medium and large for women who have. There is also another size for women who are virgins. The speculum is what the nurse uses to gently gain access to your cervix by inserting it into your vagina. She then takes the brush (see picture) and brushes it against your cervix to take some cell samples which she then deposits in the small pot (see picture).
I can honestly say I didn’t feel a thing when she took the cell sample but I was uncomfortable when she inserted the speculum, more so because I needed a wee. It will be more comfortable if you get there early enough to pee! Overall, the actual examination took less than a minute. Less than one minute to check I’m healthy.
I re-dressed and the nurse explained I would receive my results in the post around 4 weeks later. She told me that the result would either be ‘normal and no further action required’ or that I might need further tests if something looks unusual. I thanked her and left.
That was it.
A 15 minute appointment. Less than one minute of examination.
I honestly can’t understand why women are ignoring their appointment invites. The NHS provides us with a FREE service to check up on our bodies and some women are wasting the opportunity!
So let’s check back in on those myths:
Pain – I felt nothing when she took the sample. The speculum was uncomfortable because I needed a wee.
Length of time – Less than a minute.
Embarrassment – Cervical Screenings are a routine part of a nurse’s job. If you think they’ll remember your vagina, you’re wrong. They have no interest. Their main concern is to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
So ladies, if you’ve received your letter and you have yet to book your appointment – go book it now! Make looking after your body your new years resolution! And let me know in the comments below! Let’s encourage each other to look after our bodies!
Thanks for reading!