Smear Test – what really happens

Last week I had my cervical smear test. If you’re anything like me I always Google the hell out of anything medical I’m about to have done so I can be prepared for the best and worse case scenarios. Even though I’ve had a number of cervical smear tests before, I still searched the Internet to have a read up on what was about to happen. There’s plenty of information out there, but sadly not a lot from people who have had the test, just lots of information and advice from people in white coats.

In England free tests are offered to all women aged between 25 and 64 who are registered with their GP. As I understand it the tests are currently every three years if you’re under 50 and then they are five yearly thereafter. It had been five years since my last test, I was sent all the letters inviting me for the test but I was going through some things so I ignored them, pretty stupid I know.

So what actually happens during a smear test? Well I can’t speak for all cervical smear tests ever, but mine went a little bit like this…

Firstly, preparation. What do I do? I agonised over this for days. Do I shave, wax, tidy up, go full 1970s bush or just spray it with glitter? In the end the look I went for was “busy mum with a well tended but not over coiffed lady garden”. I also ensured that on the morning of my smear my bajingo was as clean as a whistle.

I went into the nurses room, sat down and made slightly awkward small talk about my hoo-ha. She wanted to know if it was happy at the moment, had there been any strange discharge or bleeding. She also needed to know when the first day of my last period was, so do go armed with this information. It’s probably a good time to mention to the nurse if you’ve had any STDs or anything, or if you’re concerned you might have something wrong. If you’re getting your vajayjay out for a smear then it’s no bother for the nurse to check you out for other things too.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that anything you have got the nurse will guaranteed, 100% have seen something much worse elsewhere. Nurses are generally really unphased by almost everything put in front of them, so don’t worry, honestly, your fru-fru is probably pretty boring to them.

The nurse asked me to go behind the curtain and take my knickers and trousers off and then lie on the couch. She gave me a large piece of paper towel to cover myself with. When I was ready she returned and asked me to put my feet together and let my knees fall apart, she asked me to put my hands under my bum as that helps tilt the pelvis so the cervix is more accessible.

She then explained she would squirt some lubricant inside me and insert a speculum. A speculum is a device which opens up the vagina so the nurse can see and easily access the cervix. It’s not painful, I didn’t find it uncomfortable, it just feels a bit like someone has opened you up, which they have.

The nurse then did the actual smear. This involves scraping some cells off my cervix with a small plastic brush. On medical websites this is described as feeling like a small scratch and I think it can do depending on how sensitive your cervix is and how hard it’s being scraped. It does feel like a scratch, but because of where it is it does feel a bit more ouchy, tender and intimate. It’s a pretty strange place to get scratched so it does feel a bit odd.

What isn’t described on the medical websites is how you’ll feel afterwards. Every woman is different, but immediately after my smear I noticed some bleeding on the sheet I was lying on, nothing major just a few drops. This continued on and off for about 48 hours afterwards. I also had cramps for about 12 hours after the smear. This is exactly how I’ve felt after all of my smear tests. But like I said, everyone reacts differently and the majority of people will be absolutely fine afterwards.

The cramps and the spotting aren’t really mentioned on the interweb, but if you have it and it’s worrying you, or if it goes on for longer than you’re comfortable with do contact your GP. The nurse did reassure me that some spotting afterwards is perfectly normal.

The nurse told me my results would be sent to me in the post within 7-10 days, it actually took just 4 days to arrive. My results were normal and they’ll call me up again in another 3 years. My normal result is great news and a weight off my mind.

A cervical smear test may not be the most dignified thing in the world, but it only takes a few minutes, it isn’t very often and it is really, really reassuring to know that all is well in your lady garden. Don’t put it off like I did (because I’m an idiot). Cervical smear testing saves lives, so don’t be afraid, just think of it as part of your bajingo maintenance routine.

You can find more information on smear tests on the NHS Choices website.

Note: This post doesn’t constitute medical advice, it’s just an account of my latest smear test.

smear test

31 responses to “Smear Test – what really happens

  1. Very helpful advice especially for those new to having smear tests…
    I remember my first and getting cramps afterwards….Googling it and panicking because nowhere mentioned the cramps….Felt like such a wally ringing the doctors and asking about them….lol x

    • Thanks Kim, you should never feel like a wally, really they should explain that spotting and cramps might happen and that they’re normal. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with an easily upset cervix πŸ˜‰

  2. this is so important and has reminded me i need to book in for mine soon too.

  3. The β€œbusy mum with a well tended but not over coiffed lady garden” made me snigger!
    Like you said its only a few minutes discomfort/embarrassment and what’s that in comparison to the alternative.

  4. Though very important this did make me chuckle at times, it puts less pressure on people I think! Sounds pretty much like mine πŸ™‚

  5. Death or a few minutes of being poked about? Know what I would rather have! Fab post πŸ™‚

  6. Your preparation paragraph really made me giggle. I would say your account is pretty much my own experience too though I don’t remember experiencing spotting. Totally agree that the nurse really couldn’t care less (in the nicest possible way)

    • Thanks Colette, there’s that story about the woman thinking she’s spraying body spray and it turns out to be glitter spray. I’m pretty sure they’ve seen most things πŸ™‚

  7. This is brilliant! Loving all the terms for the you-know-what (although you missed wizard’s sleeve?). Seriously, very sensible post and all that, must not miss the smear, very important etc… *mentally notes the word vajayjay for future use* x

  8. Thanks for this! I’ve never had a smear test yet and just about to give birth to my 2nd baby at 25 so I guess I’ll have to go for one soon. Made me feel a bit more at ease knowing what actually happens.

    • Thanks Kerry, I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine, if you’ve had a baby you’re already kind of used to getting your hoo-ha out for medical types to look at and I think that’s half of the nerves of it. Good luck with the baby πŸ™‚

  9. Great important post. I don’t get any cramping afterwards but I do have more frequent tests as I have a minor ‘condition’ of the cervix. It’s so quick and I don’t even think twice when I’m in there.
    Thanks for writing this x

    • Thanks for commenting Prue. It’s good to know they’re keeping an eye on you, I have a friend who has to go yearly just to monitor things, it’s worth it for peace of mind.

  10. Great post! I think women are put off going cause they don’t know what to expect and no one wants to talk about it! I recently went, I was only a year out. It was a relief when the normal results letter came through the door. I think if more of us talk about it, other ladies will be less worried about going.

    • Thank you for commenting. I think it’s such a private thing it can be hard to gear yourself up to go for the test and the worry while you wait for the results is hard, but totally worth it, most smears are fine, the ones that aren’t, things are usually fairly easily dealt with. Cervical cancer is now the 17th most prevalent cancer in the UK, largely down to testing, awareness and catching things early.

  11. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I’ve got a “happy” hoo haa before! Great post.

  12. Fantastic post . I must admit after giving birth a smear didn’t phase me ha

  13. I had mine last month after putting it off for years, literally. I’m glad I went though because it isn’t nearly as bad as I’d made it seem in my head even though I’ve had them before. I actually said ‘is that it?’ at the end!

  14. Clare @Emmy's Mummy

    Such an important thing to remember. It may not be pleasant but it saves lives.

  15. Good post! It’s really important that we go for our tests. It’s not pleasant but it’s necessary and could save our lives.
    “bajingo maintenance routine”
    This made me howl with laughter! Love it! πŸ˜‰ x

  16. Thank you very much. I feel a bit better. I have been scared for years and years. You have helped me decide I need to book it and get it done. X