How to Make a Smear Test Less Painful

smear test woman of colour

Smear tests and other internal procedures such as ultrasounds may be considered routine, but they are undoubtedly uncomfortable and painful. Although they are important for a number of health reasons, there are ways to make them less unpleasant. Here are some things that the woman can do before, during and after the test, as well as some tips for the health providers who are performing the procedure. Before your smear test

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the appointment and make sure you have eaten and are hydrated. This will make it easier for your body to feel present rather than rushed, which keeps your nervous system less stressed.
  2. Bring a buddy to be there as a chaperone if it makes you feel more comfortable.
  3. While you are waiting, spend a few moments being aware of your breathing. Practice breathing down into your pelvic floor, so you can connect your mind with your body.
  4. Use a Bach Flower Remedy such as 'Rescue Remedy' to help feel settled.

During the test

  1. Don't worry about the state of your bikini wax or any body hang ups etc. It's a cliche but your health provider has seen hundreds of nether regions.
  2. Continue to practice a relaxed breathing. Try using your out-breath to release in the pelvic floor.
  3. Let your buttock muscles go. When they contract, the pelvic floor tightens. Think of your buttock muscles being made of butter and melting.
  4. Feel your body let go into the couch. This will help to release any unnecessary tension.
  5. You're in charge of your body. If you need a little more time, or it feels too painful, ask for what you need.

After the test

Internal procedures can bring up a stress response. The physical act of the procedure passes a barrier between the internal world of our bodies and the environment. It's natural to feel a rush of stress hormones as well as a myriad of emotions. Try to walk some of your journey so your body can reintegrate. Listen to what you need- it might be soothing to take yourself for a cuppa or sit in the sunshine before you get back to your day. Remember to acknowledge yourself- the test might well be necessary and good for your health, but they are unlikely to be pleasant - and it's ok to feel whatever feelings come up. You might want to nurture yourself with a warm bath or rest with a hot water bottle on your abdomen.

For Nurses and Doctors

  1. However busy you are, build trust by saying your name and being communicative. You don't have to wax lyrical about the weather, but you're performing an intimate procedure so it helps to create trust.
  2. The calmer the environment, the easier it will be for the woman to relax in her pelvic floor. Keep it warm, avoid florescent lighting and open the window slightly so it doesn't feel stuffy. Quiet music might help too.
  3. Position the examination table towards privacy, so that she will not have her open legs facing the door or curtain. The legs apart and lying on her back position is a vulnerable one, so take good care to make sure she feels safe and comfortable.
  4. Use warmer lubricating gel rather than the cold one. It will avoid the reaction of shock, which causes a reflex to close and activates the nervous system.
  5. When a woman feels tense, she will naturally clamp down in her pelvis. Give her time, she will be able to work with her body when she has the time to do so.
  6. Use a calm and gentle tone of voice. When you are giving instructions, avoid medical jargon, use everyday vernacular so it feels connected to a real body rather than an anatomical specimen.
  7. Use a speculum that's small enough to avoid unnecessary pain.
  8. If she's struggling to have the procedure, be supportive and encouraging.

Let me know if you have any tips that help you with smear tests and internal procedures, either as a patient or as a health professional.