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Does having a smear test hurt?

Just talk to the nurse. (Warning! Nurse may be more friendly in real life...)

I admit it, I’ve had bad smear test experiences in the past. I bled, it was uncomfortable, there was switching-around of speculums. No fun.

But I’m lucky; since that happened, I’ve also had such a good smear test experience, it’s left me utterly fearless about having tests in the future. Basically, I told the nurse what happened the last time and explained that I was really freaking out. We talked, I calmed down, and when she came to take the sample, it was completely painless and over in seconds. Amazing!

I spoke to an NHS spokesperson, who reassured me that I’d been right in talking to the next person who tested me, and confessing my fears. “When you’re having your smear test, if you’re having a bad experience, you will get uptight, and then that experience is not likely to improve. In fact, most women find it a little uncomfortable having the speculum in, but the actual sample-taking is usually painless.

“If you’re anxious about what’s going to happen, it might be worthwhile going to talk to the nurse pre-smear. Just book an appointment to talk and then book a follow-up appointment for the smear test. You could also ask for a longer appointment so that you don’t feel rushed. The key to this is communication; if you make your anxieties clear, then your sample taker will be able to help remove those fears. The golden rule is, if you’ve had a bad experience, then talk about it before your next test. No one wants you to have a repeat of that bad experience, your clinician wants to make it so good that you come back again!”

Be informed: the more you know, the less likely you’ll be worried.

Great advice at the NHS Cervical screening page here.


4 responses »

  1. What a fantastic website. Very informative! Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. I was reluctant to go for a smear test as the last time they attempted it they couldn’t get the speculum in. They suggested I used HRT cream which I refuse to do – am not prepared to screw my hormones around and increase chances of cancer by doing this. But I was prompted to try again by all your twitter posts, used a natural organic cream to prepare, explained to the nurse I’d had a bad experience.
    Not only did I have an even worse experience, the sample taken, it transpires, was inadequate, and needs to be repeated. So any further suggestions you have for post menopausal women who have a really bad time with this would be gratefully received.

    • Hmm, I think you should book an appointment at women’s clinic and talk through your options – before repeating the smear. I’m really sorry that you’ve had a bad experience, but I know from having really grim tests in the past that with a little mental and physical preparation, and a lot of breathing and relaxation, it’s possible to have a positive experience.


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