The Internet has been awash recently with Fanny Chat. From that man who decided to mansplain what a vulva is to that Boohoo swimsuit that doesn’t seem to have a visible gusset, there’s been a bit of a hooha recent regarding …hoohas.
Obviously I’m a bit late to the party talking about this but a few weeks ago, it was Cervical Cancer Awareness Week and my Instagram was full of people talking about their smear test, Instagram story-ing their trip to the GP, complete with an interview with the nurse whilst she’s quickly swiping your innards.
It felt a bit like that scene in Mean Girls with the Sex Ed teacher. Every five seconds I was being told “Book your smear test now or you WILL get CANCER and you WILL DIE. NOW. BOOK IT NOW. It’s not scary, DON’T WAIT, BOOK IT RIGHT NOW!!!”
Which is fucking terrifying.
Now there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people with a cervix to go and get checked. It’s a necessary evil.
However the emphasis on cancer and what could go wrong and DEATH if you delayed your appointment at all is just too much pressure.
As someone who had booked appointment after appointment since November, when I turned 25, but had to cancel them due to my implant-affected cycle, the guilt and anxiety I felt all the time was overwhelming.
Being told in one second that a smear test was nothing, it was two minutes of your time and then in the next breath that it was really painful and you might bleed for the rest of the day is really confusing. If you’re already anxious about the appointment, that’s not what you need.
ANYWAY. The point of this blog post is that yesterday I was actually able to make it to an appointment. And…without sounding patronising, it was okay. Not the best way to spend a Tuesday morning but needs must, I suppose.
And here are my tips, as someone who has been sitting and worrying about having this done for the past five months, on how to get through your smear test with only a little bit of fear. Because #SmearWithoutFear is a bit out of my reach.
- Don’t wear jeans. Because getting changed in the Doctor’s is embarassing enough, you don’t need to add squeezing in and out of your skinny jeans to your to-do list. I wore a midi skirt so I didn’t have to worry about taking anything off and faffing around putting it back on.
- Just put your pants on the floor. This was the worst moment of the entire thing, let’s be real. I took my pants off and just stood there. The nurse was on the other side of the curtain saying “just let me know when you’re ready!” and I was stood there with my pants in a ball in my hand looking around panicking. In the end, I just put them on the floor near the bed.
- Breathe through it. It’s a little bit awkward, but you’re best to just breathe through the actual act and then it’s over before you know it. It is a bit cold, even though the nurse ran the speculum under the hot tap for me. (Can we just have a moment to let that sink in. Fully ran it under the hot tap.)
- If you’re really worried, take two paracetamol before you go. I was panicking about the horror stories I’d hear of period-style cramps afterwards and bleeding and how sore it was for the nurse to swipe your cervix. I popped two tablets before dropping Elliot to school and even if it was just a bit of a placebo effect, it made me feel better. About four hours after the appointment, I started to get a bit crampy so had some Nurofen after my lunch and went on with my day.
- If you’re nervous, tell them. The first thing the nurse asked me was if I was okay? She explained everything to me and was talking to me throughout the whole appointment. I’ve heard some nurses can get a bit cringey and talk to your cervix like it’s a cat they’re trying to chivvy into the carrier ready to go to the vets. Luckily, my nurse just spoke to me like a human being. ..however she did tell me I have a lovely cervix which made me walk around like Tobey Maguire when he goes evil in Spiderman 3.
I know you’re going to have been inundated with blog posts, Instagram posts, stories (I can’t get over the interview with the nurse, speculum in hand!) and YouTube videos taking you along for the ride, but I thought I’d throw in my two pence and tell you my experience.
Have you booked your smear test? Are you due one? Did you feel pressured because of the recent influx in fanny chat or did you find it comforting?