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

Cameron Must Go

I am a woman of quiet values, I vote at every election and referendum. I read widely across the media, I watch interviews on Newsnight and on Andrew Marr. I take in everything, but rarely open my mouth; why bother when there are those much more politically articulate than me, more passionate about their cause, more able to instigate change. But I can stand no more.

I am a woman of quiet actions. Food banks are my own personal cause. I know what empty cupboards and having a hungry child can be like. I don’t like to think too hard about the empty bellies of the children my donations feed, I quietly collect what I can, non-perishable items which are sent to whichever local foodbank shouts the loudest that week. This is England. This is 2014. We should not have hungry, malnourished children living and dying in extremes of poverty.

I am a woman of quiet pain. My story is no secret. I have a debilitating spinal injury. I am in pain every day and will be in pain every day for the rest of my life. Right now it is a level of pain I can manage and cope with. Without the NHS I would be at best paralysed in a wheelchair, or worse, dead. I used to work for the NHS, I know what it achieves every single day, what miracles it performs, it’s not perfect, but it’s a billion times better than any alternative and it is worth fighting for. We must not lose it.

I am a woman who quietly notices. I see more homeless people on our streets. I hear of friends who have lost their homes and are “sofa surfing” until they can get back on their feet again, but that might not ever happen. I see children staying in hostels and B&Bs, wholly unsuitable places to raise a child, but better than the streets. I notice more soup kitchens, more shelters, more help needed. Government cuts biting hard at the most vulnerable in our society.

I am a woman with a quiet voice. But it doesn’t make my words less valuable. I am prepared to stand up and argue. I won’t be waving any placards anytime soon, but I will do what I can in my own way. The world is full of people like me, introverts with quiet voices and passionate hearts. As Stephen Hawking once said “quiet people have the loudest minds”.

Don’t underestimate the public and the strength of feeling about the current regime. No government pleases all of the people all of the time, but any government which gleefully pushes families into poverty, sanctions the sick, brushes the homeless under the carpet and at the same time gives themselves a whopping pay rise isn’t a benevolent, caring, supportive government serving its people.

I’m not seeing any significant positive economic changes as a result of these apparently cost saving measures, only poorer people getting poorer and hungrier, the vulnerable being victimised and treated unjustly and the systematic breaking up and selling off of the public service infrastructure of this country. The UK is a not for profit organisation. It should be run by the people, for the people, not by the privileged, for the privileged. This is why Cameron must go.

Cameron must go