When I attended my first smear test at the age of 25, I was suffering from a horrendous anxiety disorder which was ruling my life. The whole prospect of the smear test was terrifying – but I wasn’t going to let my anxiety stop me having such an important and potentially life saving test. Nerves during a smear test aren’t uncommon. So I want to share how to relax during a smear test.
Nobody likes going to the doctors. Nobody wants to go to the doctors. But at the end of the day, we’re all going to need to go to the doctors for something or another and most people will just rock up, get seen and leave with prescription in hand.
Other people find it much more challenging.
I cancelled an appointment I had once to talk about hay fever… because it was making me so anxious that I felt ill. But before I attended my smear, the only thing going around my head was, “how on EARTH am I going to do this?”
And I proceeded to worry about it every single day for an entire month from the time of booking my appointment, to the day of my test.
It’s no secret that a lot of women are nervous about having their first test. From, “will it hurt?” to “I don’t want to take my knickers off for a random doctor!“. They’re all perfectly reasonable reasons to be nervous. But what I really, really, really hate hearing is that someone’s anxiety is stopping them going to get this life saving test.
It makes me sad not only because I know how important this test is but because I’ve been there. I was that person for a while. But I did it. I got through it. I even got through a hospital appointment when my results came back abnormal! Which was my worst nightmare – but I even got through that.
Anxiety is a horrible thing. It can be completely all-consuming and debilitating. It can stop you doing things you love and things which are really important. So… whilst I can’t physically force you to go and have your smear test done, I can offer some advice from someone who’s been there. As someone who’s felt that all-consuming, sickening anxiety every single day but took productive and pro-active steps to ensure that it didn’t stop me having my test.
These are all things I’ve done personally in the past which taught me how to relax during a smear test. I no longer get nervous of having a test – especially since I now have to have them more regularly, due to having HPV.
Related read: HPV and Cervical Screenings – Let’s Talk About It
How to relax during a smear test:
Before the smear test:
Research: Using valid and professional websites only (such as NHS), research about smear tests, what’s involved and what they’re looking for during the test. Educate yourself fully – knowledge is power!
Stay off of forums: The majority of people you’ll find in forums are those that have had a bad experience. Everyone else had their test and got on with their day. Do not read horror stories beforehand because they are irrelevant to you and your personal experience.
Utilize your doctors appointments: This is totally okay to do if you need to or if not, make your cervical screening appointment a double (if at all possible) which will give you time to talk to the doctor / nurse about everything you’re concerned about as well as getting used to the surroundings.
Speak to a loved one: Chances are your mum, nan, aunt, friend, girlfriend has had one done. It can be really beneficial to sit down with them in a relaxed, cozy environment and have a chat about their experiences.
Phone a helpline: Jo’s Trust is a brilliant charity and they have a helpline you can call and talk over any of your concerns from attending your first smear, nerves over the results, hospital appointments – anything! Their number is: 08088028000
During the smear test:
Consider herbal remedies: If it’s safe for you to do so, you might want to consider taking herbal remedies as this can be a great way for how to relax during a smear test. Kalms tablets or Bachs Rescue Remedy are great options!
Take someone in with you: You can take someone in the room with you if you’re mega nervous about your test and there’s absolutely nothing wrong or embarrassing about doing this. If it’s going to keep you at ease – do it!
Ask for a smaller speculum: This is something some people still aren’t aware of but most – if not all – doctor surgeries have a couple of different sized speculums. Most people can get away with the smaller one – so ask for it!
Practice deep breathing or meditation: I get through my tests now by focusing on my breathing – which is called conscious breathing. Your breath is such a powerful tool – as is your mind. Use them. This might need a bit of practice but it can work wonders.
Remember that all experiences are different: If you’ve found your experience a little painful, remember that all experiences, bodies and cervix are different! I happen to have a tilted uterus, which means that my smear experience is likely to be different to my friends!
Treat yourself to something nice: And finally, I’m always an advocate for treating yourself! Especially after you’ve done something nerves-wracking! So make a point to treat yourself after your test. Perhaps a takeaway, a new book or coffee and cake!
These are some of my personal tips. I feel like the lead up is just as important as the test itself. Do you do any of these things?
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