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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Painful smear test

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Author Topic: Painful smear test
mizchastain
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Today I had my first smear test (in the UK these don't start until age 24/25). I was prepared for discomfort, but it was so horribly painful and I was so tense that the nurse couldn't even get the speculum in all the way, never mind open it. I now have to see the doctor about it, and I'm still quite sore and humiliated. I know rationally I didn't do anything wrong, and the nurse did everything right and was really nice about it, but it still didn't work and felt awful. I hate putting things in there anyway, so I dread the treatment almost as much as the issue [Frown] I don't really know what I'm asking for here since there's not a lot can be done except see the doctor. Maybe just to confirm this isn't the first time this has happened to anyone.
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Redskies
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I'm sorry to hear this, mizchastain.

This is not an experience I personally have had, but I do know it's an experience some people do have. So, it's not just you, if that helps.

You said you hate putting things in your vagina - that's certainly clear enough, but to clarify an important part of this: are you also meaning that you usually or always have pain with insertion, or not?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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mizchastain
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To be honest I haven't successfully put anything in at all until now. I can get one well-greased finger or thrush cream applicator in a very short way and that just feels a bit strange, but if I try to put anything else in it just won't go at all, I might as well be pressing against a solid surface. I suspect the angle may be giving me difficulty as well, I realised today it's further back than I thought - my body shape makes it very difficult for me to see what I'm doing in a mirror as well.
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Redskies
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There's every chance this issue can be navigated enough so you can have smear tests if you want them.

The "solid surface" thing suggests that may be about angles and you hitting the vaginal wall. Also, the vagina is a muscle, and a pretty strong one at that, so being tense to start with is a likely contributing factor to the difficulty and pain. That's not to blame you in any way - there are lots of reasons why people may feel very not-keen on these kinds of examinations, and tensing up is a natural reaction to that - it's simply that figuring out ways where you'll be able to be more relaxed will likely help a lot.

I know that for people who have trouble with pain or distress around vaginal exams, Heather suggests talking about it with the doctor first. A doctor who's right for you - one with whom success is possible - will listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and suggest and figure out with you what things might help, both practically and to help you relax.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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mizchastain
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It's been several hours and I'm still in noticeable discomfort. Is that normal?
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Heather
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I'd really suggest calling the doctor, since they are going to be the best person to assess this situation.

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mizchastain
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Will do, I have another appointment next week. Does anyone who's had experience with this know if just taking a painkiller in advance would help? I'd like to go through the obvious options.

Thing is, I wasn't at all embarrassed by the procedure, it was all very professional. I'm humiliated by the fact that I couldn't go through with it. I did try to just get it over with, but I was very obviously in pain, so she wouldn't continue.

Having had a frustrating week in general doesn't really help, and might have contributed to making me tense. (I got very upset about a situation with animals, had to rewrite a significant amount of my career plans, and then got very angry over some people's inappropriate treatment of a recent incident which I'm calmed down about now and won't go into but was distressing at the time.)

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Heather
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Again, that's really best to discuss with your provider. Especially since it depends on what this is about. If it is about nervousness and anxiety, they might instead suggest an anti-anxiety medication, for example.

It sounds to me like you're thinking about this in kind of a macho way, with the idea that it's some kind of achievement or prowess to have a genital exam that one finishes or doesn't feel pain with. I can't suggest enough you try and dump this: it's not a failure that happened here on your part, and it would not have been some kind of "You are so awesome!" had it gone differently. Truly.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Yeah, I'll keep reassuring myself. I'll be fine. I'm not sure if this issue is psychological or physical - another thing to ask the doctor about.
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Heather
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And whatever it is? It's valid, and no mark of your strength or weakness in some way. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Seen the doc; since I have no plans to be sexually active he thinks it's not worth going through the process with dilators, so he wants me to reschedule the appointment and take a prescription muscle relaxant beforehand. Fingers crossed, I'll update later and say if it worked.
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mizchastain
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Had the second appointment with muscle relaxant, and it still didn't work. Now I'm in pain again and facing yet another appointment and more discomfort, and the nurse brought up resorting to general anaesthetic. I'm no longer embarrassed, but now I'm deeply annoyed. A procedure which I expected to take five minutes is now dragging out over multiple months, and it's really frustrating and there's nothing I can consciously do about it.
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Heather
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I am so sorry to hear this. [Frown]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Does anyone have any advice as to what might work, or should I wait to speak to the doctor again? That'll take weeks.
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Heather
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Well, before anything else, can you perhaps fill me in on any conversations you have had with your healthcare providers about how necessary they think this pap is for you right now?

In other words, have they explained their rationale per trying to do this before or without first finding out what the pain issue is, and how to best address it, rather than waiting? Do they feel the necessity of a pap for you now outweighs the pain and distress it is causing you?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Actually I was the one who wanted to try and find a way to get it done - I thought putting it off would make it worse in future and I'd rather have some discomfort than cervical cancer. If the doctor thinks the hassle outweighs the risk, I'll take their advice.
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Heather
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Okay. And certainly, that is a valid concern.

At the same time, given your discomfort here, I'm guessing you don't exactly have a long sexual history with the kinds of genital sex that transmit HPV in the first place? In other words, if your risk of even acquiring cervical cancer -- and rather, what most often causes it -- is very low, then a pap is not something I'd view as an immediate need.

My concern if this is mostly about your choice is that repeated experiences with pain like this make it more and more likely things will keep being painful, because you're going to associate this kind of contact with pain. And obviously, a chronic pain disorder is something you want to avoid, too.

My own best advice, unless I'm misunderstanding or guessing wrong about your sexual history, is to maybe instead switch gears here and work with a healthcare provider on getting to the bottom of this pain first. Unless, of course, they advise otherwise.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I'm an asexual virgin in all senses of the term, have never successfully inserted anything nor been particularly fond of the idea of doing so. I told the doctor I don't enjoy penetration so he suggested trying muscle relaxers rather than the dilator procedure. I really want to get this test done because I've been suffering from amenorrhea all year and I want to rule out any serious problems. (It's probably because I'm both overweight and dealing with stress and lack of a coherent day-to-day schedule because I'm between jobs, but I wanted to check.)
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Heather
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A pap smear won't provide any information about menstrual issues, just so you know for making these choices. And it really does sound to me like you're someone who could wait on their pap because it doesn't sound like it's even remotely likely you've been at risk of HPV or cervical cancer.

To look into the amenorrhea, the kind of thing that would more commonly be done is to have you keep a charting journal for a while about all things menses, some bloodwork, and perhaps an abdominal ultrasound, none of which require any vaginal entry of any kind.

Have you already voiced that it is this that is your main concern?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I have mentioned it to the doctor, we didn't go into it in detail.
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Heather
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So, sounds like you need to do that. I'd say it's essential they understand exactly what your concerns are to be sure they're addressing them properly, and not struggling to give you any exams or tests that won't tell them anything about what you are actually seeking help with!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Will do.

The menstrual problem is probably to do with both my weight and my current frustration (which is contributing to my overeating problem and thus my weight as well as stress issues). I lost my job in March because of a sequence of events that was frustrating in itself, have had to completely rewrite my life plans because I had an interview in the job field I'd originally wanted and found I was emotionally unable to handle it, and my attempts at freelance work have resulted in nothing at all, and in the meantime I'm stuck living in my parents' house.

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Heather
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Well, all of that is most certainly a bucket full of suck. I'm sorry you've been struggling so much and dealing with all of this.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Since most of my current problems aren't really related to sexual matters, is there a different place I could anonymously discuss them so I'm not clogging up the tubes here?

Another doctor's appointment in a few weeks, I'll bring news afterwards.

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Heather
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Are you asking for a referral to a different kind of service or another site? Or for a specific place to talk here?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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Anything I could use would be okay.
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Molias
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The Randoms forum here is a place you could use for non-sexuality-related discussion, if you like! http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/forum/f/7.html
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OhImpecuniousOne
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Jumping the gun here, but I wanted to express some sympathy for your situation - you're definitely not alone. I'm in my early twenties, and finding more and more that my friends are also in the position of having a shiny degree, thwarted life goals, shitty jobs or no jobs, being financially reliant on family or partners, and trying to rewrite their life plans with really nowhere to start. It's oddly nice, as it makes me feel less deficient, especially compared to the elite group of my former classmates who moved to Singapore to work as corporate lawyers and fill facebook with their well-funded world trips. [Wink]
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