Get Yer Rat Out!

Ok, sorry about the vulgar blog post title, but I wanted to grab your attention. Today I'm going to talk about vagina's. Not in a horrible way either; I noticed there's a lot of media attention surrounding Smear Tests about today, so I thought I'd give you an insight into MY experience of having one and my apprehensions before hand and why it was ultimately nothing to be the slightest bit bothered about! So grab a drink and cross your legs ladies, there's a cervix or two to discuss.


So, many of you may know I'm a little bit older than I look - I'm 27 in fact (gasp!) and shortly before my 25th Birthday I received a letter from the NHS. It was 'inviting' me to my smear test! Instead of having the usual reaction one has when 'invited' to something (for example a blogging event where you think YAY GOODY BAG!) I did not get excited one bit. In fact, I pretty much felt my stomach drop and went in to a silent fit of anxious panic. I know that having the smear test (such a nice name for it too, maybe they need to consider a rebrand to make it sound more appealing!) is a standard thing, but I'm Terri Lowe, I don't *do* doctors visits, I've never even been in hospital apart from when I got ran over by the paper boy when I was 4 and broke my leg (don't even mention BMX's to me). So going to a person I didn't know and getting my bits out really did not appeal and I put off the test for a good 6 months.....

Was this the right thing to do? HELL. NO. Within this period of anxiously putting it off and waiting around I expressed my concerns to some then colleagues and a few friends. A lot of my friends are a year or two younger than me, so that didn't help that non of them had experience such things. The older ones, some of them helped, some definitely didn't! There were many horror stories I'd been told. Like they SCRAPE your insides and it's quite a painful experience. So there I was building it up in my head thinking I'm going to have to go completely starkers from the waist down for some stranger to scrape my insides with an apparatus resembling a toothbrush.... 

Was this the reality though? NO. I made my appointment with a lot of resentment, I don't know about other area's but in Stoke on Trent we I didn't go to my regular GP surgery for this although I do think other area's can do. Mine was a clinic in Newcastle Under Lyme which was a specialist Family Planning and Sexual Health one. My mind immediately went in to overdrive during the one week I had to wait for my appointment, I thought all kinds of crazy crap! Even to the extent of ''Will I be able to drive back afterwards MY WOMB WILL BE IN TURMOIL'' and other things so borderline weird that I won't even write them. Just put it this was, I was scared. 

I turned up for the appointment in good time, only having to wait for around 5 minutes. I must say these types of clinics aren't exactly the most welcoming of places in appearance. The receptionist was sat behind a glass window like at the bank and the place has a eery silence to it. I waited in the waiting room which was not dissimilar to where you'd spend time in isolation when you're excluded from lessons at school, in fact they even had those horrible plastic chairs they have at schools in there. I had a gander at the leaflets on show and found an array of depressing ones about STI's and similar exciting subjects all in lovely fonts and designs which made me think of the 80's. Then I was called in to the ROOM OF DOOM.

What met me was a very pleasant nurse, she could clearly see I was nervous, and just to confirm I did tell her so about 5 times. Now one tip I will give you if you're scared of revealing yourself: Wear a knee length skirt and knee high socks!! It saves the awkward taking down your trousers/tights thing and makes you feel a little better about only having to pop your pants down and skirt up! (I hope no perverts are googling these keywords) The nurse gave me a sheet of lovely blue kitchen roll to place over myself anyway though even though my skirt covered my mimsy.  Just remember no matter how ugly you think your flaps are, these nurses see this type of thing EVERY day and even if you have a right freaky looking crotch, they've probably seen a LOT worse, vagina's are probably like looking at a cup of tea for these people. Now comes the scary part.....

I didn't actually look at what the nurse was doing/inserting down there. But it did feel ever so slightly uncomfortable. I was obviously on edge and she told me to relax a little bit and when I did it was a little less uncomfortable. Just as soon as that it was over! I was done!!?? Literally around 5 seconds. After ALL that anxiety, panic, stress it was done, like that!!! Then came the wait for the results.... Me being me, was now convinced they'd find something wrong, so I dreaded to day the result came back! It took around 2 weeks I think and when it came I left it a few hours before I dared open it! And once again - nothing was there to worry about!! I'd given myself 6 months of worry for nothing!! The uncomfortable part I should mention is the plastic clamp they place inside to open the area up, it's a little cold and big, but does not hurt! I felt nothing on the inside from the 'scrape'.

Now I'm not saying everyone will have this experience, or saying everyone will have an all clear test, but this is the point of smear tests - to detect if there is anything of concern to be treated. The sooner something is identified the sooner something can be done about it. Imagine if I'd put mine off for that long and then there was something of concern that came back in the results? I would regret it so much and I do regret putting it off for as long as I did and worrying so much about it! I also wish I hadn't asked others about it because hardly anyone came back with a positive response, and I really don't know why other women would want younger ones who are clearly a bit scared to feel like that! If you've had a test please share your experience in the comments and hopefully anyone who is having issues worrying will be put at ease. We need to make this a positive activity because ultimately girls - it's going to save a life or two. 

You can find more information and even a really warm and friendly *cough* video here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cervical-screening-test/Pages/Introduction.aspx

*Don't worry, normal blogging will resume shortly, it's just something I wanted to share, we need to change the culture of being scared of this type of thing!

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28 Comments:

  1. I love that you wrote a post about this. For obvious reasons I feel quite strongly about people going and getting it done, it really is a lifesaver :) thanks for including my tweet in your pic too :)

    Georgina

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  2. I've never been for one myself - im too young yet ;) but i've always dreaded the day that i do have to go for one.
    So im glad you've done this post as its made me feel a little more at ease about it, for when it does eventually come around!
    Natalie x
    youralmostalice.blogspot.com

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  3. I have to have these all the time and I'm only 20! First time I was really scared too. Made matters even worse by watching video's on youtube of it! It's only uncomfortable if you make yourself believe its going to be uncomfortable. You have to just bite the bullet, lay back, and Think about how embarrassing it would be if you accidently trumped...That puts your mind of it :P

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  4. Thanks for talking about such a taboo subject! I had a pap test come back positive for pre-cancerous cells when I was only 23 and eventually had to get a thin layer of my cervix removed. It was a very scary experience as I didn't ever hear anyone talk about it and I thought what I had was much more serious than it really was. I think all young women should share their experiences with their girlfriends, younger sisters, cousins etc. as it could be a great comfort to them.

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  5. The age limit is lower in Wales and I'm really nervous about the letter coming through my door. I'm pretty scared of Dr's and I've heard all the horror stories too but this post makes me feel a bit more relaxed so thank you for telling it like it is. xxx
    Roxy's Box of Tricks  

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  6. I have actually had 4 smears in the past 12 months as mine keep coming back 'inconclusive'. I have to agree with you, it is a *little* uncomfortable but it really is a 5 second discomfort and the great thing is it's not like you have eye contact with the nurse doing it lol. great post :) xx

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  7. Well done for posting, this subject is not talked about enough. I'm 27 too and had my first one about 2 years ago, I was quite terrified too, but it really isn't bad. The nurse was lovely, nothing about it hurt, and really I was more bothered about being half naked and someone looking down there.

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  8. Thanks for this post Terri, I know how important smears are yet im 26 with a 2yr old and still terrified! Im going to ring up and book an appointment first thing in the morning x

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  9. Oh this is so interesting. In the US, we go at 18 then are supposed to go every year after that (although standards are changing). To be honest, to have it for the first time at 25 would have been such a different experience than what I had at 18. It was quite a lot worse than I was expecting... I left feeling like a lab specimen. Now that I'm older, I still feel like that, but not nearly as violated. Regardless, it's necessary, at least until a better method is adopted. I appreciate you writing this!

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  10. You have such a lovely way of writing about things. Brilliant post. Funny I should stumble upon this my friend and I were talking about it yesterday. She's almost 25 and had the same dreaded letter! I feel loads more comfortable about mine now, even though it's a couple of years away, I'm not as nervous reading your story. :) x

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  11. I got my smear test done maybe two years ago now when I was 20. I was nervous but I knew it was something I needed to get done (this also wasn't long after I had to come off the pill so I had a heightened awareness of vaginal health). It was over pretty quickly, though it was awkward - I remember she had to use extra lube with me! Cringey!

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  12. I've had something very similar, and it was uncomfortable, but thats it.. The nurses are brilliant, mine in particular rubbed my hand afterwards and said 'well done' which at the time was really helpful and comforting :)

    Great post, I'm sure you will have put lot of minds at ease

    Kerys -ox
    Little Bo Blab

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  13. I'm so glad to see people more people talking about this! My mum scared me into trying to get a test when I was 20 and I've been refused every time I've asked about it because I was too young. At first I was terrified about the idea of having it done, but after briefly trying the coil as an alternative to being on the pill (I really would not recommend it!) my nerves have settled a lot. I know roughly what will happen and you're so right about wearing a skirt instead of jeans! It's a little uncomfortable but thankfully it's quick and not really that bad at all! I wish more people could be as open about it as you, I think a lot less women would put off having the test if they knew it wasn't that bad!
    Jodie xx | Future Freaks Me

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  14. I've had 4 and am only coming up for 22. Age limit must be lower in Scotland. Anyway my first time I was absolute kacking it! But honestly its not the worst feeling in the world, I think my discomfort comes from the embarrassment of a nurse looking at my flower. Cringe. It is worrying when you get "irregular cells' in your letter 3 times but its all worth it when it comes NORMAL and you don't have to go back for 3 years ! Whooopaaa! My peer neighbours sister won't have to see my vajayjay for a whiley! The horror stories are make this dreaded letter so much scarier then it should be ! Bite the bullet ladies and get it oot!
    hahaha
    x

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  15. This is a brilliant post, thanks for writing this. I actually had to research people's beliefs and whatnot about this topic during my second year doing Psychology, and there are so many barriers to women not going and getting it done. I do think there's a lot more that can be done from the doctor's side of things, even just a being bit more friendly or at least say something! Unfortunately it's rare to find someone who can put you at ease about these kind of things even though it is quite a routine thing these days.
    I've still got a few more years before I start having them but I'm not that freaked out by it any more. The tweet at the top says it all really: it can't be as bad as cancer! xx

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  16. This is so weird, I literally got called for mine 2 days ago! I am not nervouse or anxious at all, and I am quite happy getting my kit off lol! But I do NEED to find the time to make an appointment, it's my health for gods sake :)

    Em

    x

    Em’s Mixed Bag

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  17. I don't understand why it's so late in the UK. Not to go too TMI but I started my periods at 10 and have been sexually active for 10 years. Still scared but determined to get booked in in 2013. I think it's just a vulnerable position and I just can't stand the thought of someone looking at my FOOF! x

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  18. Brilliant post, I've not had my first yet but as I'm 25 in a few months time I'm assuming it'll be anytime soon. I'm not overly bothered because I've had doctors "rummaging down there" before.

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  19. Well done for having the guts to tackle this topic :) I asked for one when I was only 22, and luckily my GP surgery agreed, as I had stage 3 abnormalities and needed to be referred for treatment - but even that was really no hassle, now have to have check ups yearly but after 5 years still all clear so far... dread to think what might have developed if I'd waited until 25!

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  20. I have no doubt in my mind that smear tests save lives, but my first experience was so horrific that I refuse to return for the near future. I told the nurse I was a virgin and she laughed in my face. I'm sorry, is being a virgin funny?! I think not. She insisted I had it done anyway despite the fact that you aren't suppose to until you've had sex. I found the pain unbearable and told her to stop. She reluctantly did. After a few minutes of sobbing, she tried again. Yet again, pain = unbearable. I apologised (for what, I'm unsure) yet she was still very dismissive and acted as though I'd wasted her time. The pain was too sore to allow her to finish even if I wanted her to. As I said, I don't doubt they save lives, but I'll go and get one done when I decided to have sex and hopefully get a much nicer nurse.

    Well done for tackling such an issue though.

    http://filthypaws-and-silkypaws.blogspot.com/

    xx

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    Replies
    1. I had pretty much the same experience. Ironically I was newly married and had gone to the doctor because sex was painful, and their response was to do a smear test. It was agony, and the nurse was rude and dismissive.

      I refused to go back for about ten years, till I was eventually forced to. But that second smear didn't even make me blink - I wouldn't even say it was uncomfortable!

      Unfortunately everyone's experience isn't the same, but even if you have had a hellish test, it can get better!

      Delete
  21. Thanks for sharing your experience. I received the lovely invite last week as I am turning 25 next month. Oh the joy. I am not actually that worried about going it more the hassle of getting an appointment. x

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  22. Unfortunately mine didn't go so well. It took the nurse ages and she made me bleed :( I'm completely used to them now though. I had a complicated twin pregnancy with many hospital stays and I must have had about 10+ speculums in the space of three months so they're not a big deal any more! Good to see it being talked about, it shouldn't be a taboo subject x

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  23. This is a great post, really informative and puts my mind at ease I have to say! I'm turning 25 at the end of this year, and I didn't realise they sent you an invite! I shall be nervously awaiting that one! I have been to GUM clinics before (purely because I scare myself silly that I've got a disease! Thankfully I never had anything!) and it sounds like its the same experience as in there, the little clamp, a cotton bud and that's it!
    Thanks so much for this post, I really had been scared into thinking it was much much worse!
    xx

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  24. In wales we start having ours at 20. Im now 23 and smear number 2 is next week. Not nervous. Nothing to worry yourself over :-) x

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  25. Good on you for tackling a subject that is clearly not spoken about enough. The age for being 'invited' is lower in Scotland. I'm 24 and have never had a smear test as I've stupidly put it off and put it off because I was very nervous first of all at what might be discovered, and also at the thought of getting my kit off and having to have myself on display as such. After reading your post you've really spurred me on to get a move on and get this booked. So I'm biting the bullet and having this done in 2013! Thank you for sharing. I'm taking a little inspiration from you and am going to blog about my experience too as and when I have this done...if it encourages one more woman to have it done, it will be so worth it.

    Nikki
    x

    www.smokemirrorsblog.blogspot.com

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  26. Brilliant post. A 30-year-old I went to college with had never had one. Idiot. I've had two smear tests now and it's discomfort for about 10 seconds and then you go home. Job done. Certainly can't be worse than losing your virginity. I actually find getting my contraceptive injection more awkward- leaning over a table whilst a nurse stabs me in the arse with a needle. Then she has to stand and dab the blood away whilst we chat about the weather...

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  27. I got my invitation for my first smear in March this year.. I was scared as hell (high anxiety anyway) however, if I hadn't gone it could have turned out pretty nasty. I had abnormal cells on my cervix. A biopsy and treatment appointment later (both slightly uncomfortable, but nothing worse than period pains) all abnormal cells have been removed! Got to go back in 6 months, but for now my mind is at rest..

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About Hello Terri Lowe


A UK Lifestyle, Food, Beauty and Music Blog, based in Staffordshire, you can also expect to see reviews of places around the country. Often spotted Manchester or Birmingham at the weekends, you can expect to see a little bit of everything from festivals to food and everything in-between. When not blogging, you can find me having a nice sit down with my cats, Stevie and Kitty, or enjoying a fine cup of coffee. Don't forget to take a look at my 'about' page if you're interested in collaborating on any exciting opportunities!


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