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.

how to relax during a smear test

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

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:

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.

Afterwards:

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!

how to relax during a smear test

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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48 Comments

  1. […] Since I had my first cervical screening in 2017, which revealed I had slightly abnormal cells and the HPV virus, I’ve found myself as a bit of an advocate for cervical screenings. I’ve covered my first test on my blog here, as well as what happened when I went for a colposcopy and also some tips to help those who are nervous about attending their first screening. […]

  2. I love how relatable this post was! You gave somebody wonderful tips for such a nerve racking experience. I remember when my girlfriend went for one. I know she would’ve enjoyed reading this to ease her mind. Smears are absolutely important, you’re right it’s nice when you can brin a friend and boy was that lovely of the nurse to jot that down on your notes. Lovely as always. 😊

    xx Lena | https://lenadeexo.com/

  3. Oh my gosh this is ridiculously helpful. I’m turning 25 this year and have been nervous about the idea of getting a smear test done for years after hearing so many horror stories from people I know but this has definitely eased my anxiety a little 🙂 Will be bookmarking this so I can re-read it when the time comes for me to go!

    Jessica ♡ jessinwonderlandx.blogspot.co.uk

  4. I have to admit, I’m completely overdue a test (for a long list of reasons) but your advice is really helpful. I still have questions about it but I’m going to book an appointment hopefully this week x

  5. I found this so interesting. I’m 23 so I’m not quite there yet. I’ve had many many appointments involving doctors in that general area because of issues with my periods. I’ve had exams, swabs and even a camera up there but the thought of getting my smear p-e-t-r-i-f-i-e-s me. And I’m not typically an anxious person. It’s funny how some things just rattle you x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

    1. If you’ve already had all of those you’ll be absolutely fine! I’ve had a few things done “around there” too and the smear was by far the least of my worries when looking back on them (: xx

  6. I haven’t had my test yet. I didn’t even received my latter! But I know how important it is and that I should go. Thanks for these tips, they will make it easier! xx corinne

  7. amazing tips! this is such a lovely post to write for us all to read, it has definitely made me feel better! thanks so much xx

  8. such an important post, im only 21 so still have a few years off but i think its so important that people continue to talk and be open about it although I do think the age should be lowered

  9. Really great post Jenny! Unfortunately I am only 20 so another 5 years to go till I get invited for a smear though I do think the age should be lowered as they are incredibly important!

  10. I think point 13 is so crucial to remember. I had my first smear test when I was 20 and I had never discussed it with anyone further than the “ugh don’t want to go to that!” jokes. But now with the amount I see on Twitter, I’m kind of glad I didn’t. While I think it’s really good that people are able to discuss this openly, the number of people saying “it’ll hurt” or whatever would’ve really put me off. I went in expecting it to be awkward but not painful – and that’s how it was. If I’d heard that it hurt I would’ve been 1000 x more tense and probably been unable to relax and therefore, it would’ve hurt! I worry about the number of people who get caught up in expecting their experience to be like someone else’s. I hate to know people are putting off something so important just because it ‘might’ hurt.
    Beth x

    1. Oh I totally agree! The awareness we have now is great and getting better but the comments from people really aren’t helping. I didn’t really have too many expectations either – I spoke to my mum about it in depth but that’s about it. She only told me AFTER that hers always hurt – probably cos she didn’t want me to worry more. And mine didn’t hurt at all (: xxx

  11. Thank you so much. I actually thought the age was 24 and was just coming around to the idea as I’m 24 in two months, so to find out you could book yours just before you turned 25 is really helpful as I want to get it out the way. Thank you for the helpful advice as always!

    1. You should receive your letter at about 24 and a half years old! They don’t do them until you’re 25 but if you ring your docs as soon as you get your letter and book you’ll get yourself in as early as possible (: xx

  12. Girl I am so happy you’ve posted this! I’m planning a similar post for my blog since reading that so many women are frightened to get smears or worried about what they look like!! This post is amazing and so helpful!!

  13. This post is so great! I always say when I’m nervous now, usually about injections/blood tests and the nurses are so sweet and helpful! For anything medical related I just have to constantly remind myself that they do this everyday and want it to go well. Xx

  14. This is such a brilliant post, I love your tips for easing the anxiety a lot of women feel, there’s definitely something for everyone whether you prefer medication or meditation! I was nervous about my first smear but only really from an embarrassment perspective, it didn’t really occur to me anything might be wrong. In the end, the nurse had to fetch another nurse, and then a doctor, and it turned out I had a cyst that was blocking my cervix. I had to go for hospital check ups and an MRI but it turned out to be benign and I had no symptoms so they left it. Until we started trying for a baby, nothing happened and after 18 months they decided to operate to see what was going on, and remove the cyst just to kill two birds with one stone. Now I’m pregnant and my consultant thinks the cyst was pressing my cervix closed, so even though my smear itself came back normal there are other things that they can diagnose during your test that can be really important! I haven’t been again yet as I’m due now but they don’t do them while you’re pregnant, but I’ll definitely be going straight away once the baby is here and I’m called up! Thanks for sharing your experience Jenny, it’s so important and can absolutely save lives 😊

    1. Goodness me what a story! I’m so glad you got that sorted for the sake of fertility and your baby! I think they’re just as important for other things, like that, too. Obviously we can’t see what’s going on up there so it’s handy to have someone look every once in a while! xxx

      1. Exactly 😊 I just want other women to know that even if your results come back abnormal or they find something else, like with me, it doesn’t necessarily mean the worst possible news, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! In Wales the age is 20 for your first smear, one of my best friends’ sister had an abnormal result at her first one at 20, so it’s especially important to go as soon as you’re called and not think you’re young so you’re in the clear. It usually just involves a follow up to get a second sample or possibly a procedure to get rid of the effected cells, and then regular check ups to make sure it doesn’t come back. Anyway I’ll stop harping on now! 😂 Everybody just go and get checked!! 😄 x

      2. Yep I had abnormal cells and had to go for a follow up at my hospital 🙂 thankfully they had cleared up by then though so I didn’t have to have any extra treatment but even if you do, like you said, it’s better to be safe than sorry (: xxx

  15. Another really helpful post on this subject, Jenny. The tips about asking reception to note your nerves, and a smaller speculum are great. I can’t say I enjoy smear tests but I know how necessary they are, so thank you for sharing this. Xx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

  16. I was terrified before my smear! I spent a month leading up to it constantly crying and feeling really anxious! My doctor prescribed me Valium which helped a little … but on the day I took my boyfriend into the appointment with me so I had a friendly face to keep me sane and it helped so much!
    These are great tips 💕

  17. I’ll be getting my first one this year! The possible pain is what worries me. I feel like everytime it’s brought up in conversation someone always says how ‘uncomfortable’ it is. It’s so worrying to hear that more people are avoiding getting it done.

  18. It’s such an important thing to do, no matter how nerve wracking. At 21 I had to have a cervical biopsy and then another one at 22, thankfully I was clear of their worries, but now I have to go for a yearly smear test.

  19. Love this post! Your first smear is so scary, my first came back abnormal and then had to have them annually ☹️ luckily everything was fine but it highlighted how important they are to have. Not pleasant but very necessary. Thanks for sharing 😊

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