In Summary
  • The test itself might cause some pain similar to menstrual cramps, but that lasts maximum 30 seconds, and then it's gone.
  • If you're more comfortable with a female doctor or nurse doing the test, you can ask for one.
  • If you feel pain or discomfort, tell the doctor or nurse doing the test.

The UK government wants to rebrand smear tests as "cervical screening" because fewer women are going for the test.

The screening is basically a health check for the cervix.

But there's no doubt it has a bad reputation - and the word "smear" doesn't exactly sell the procedure.

Whether you're worried it'll hurt or be embarrassing, we asked Dr Philippa Kaye about how you can make your test easier - because it does save lives.

Time your appointment with your period

"The best time to have your smear test is when you're not bleeding," says Dr Kaye, as that can affect the test.

"Ideally, you would arrange it for somewhere in the middle of your cycle or towards the end of your cycle."

Dr Kaye adds the test itself might cause some pain similar to menstrual cramps, "but that lasts maximum 30 seconds, and then it's gone".

Wear comfortable clothes

The doctor or nurse taking the test needs you to be relaxed when taking the test - so make sure you're comfortable.

"Maybe you want to wear a skirt, so that we can lift that up and you still feel more covered - as opposed to taking off leggings or jeans," says Dr Kaye.

Ask for a woman to do the test

If you're more comfortable with a female doctor or nurse doing the test, you can ask for one.

"I can't guarantee that that is always available, but in the majority of GP services it is," says Dr Kaye.

Ask for a smaller speculum

The speculum is the clear plastic instrument which is inserted into the vagina to hold it open.

It shouldn't need to be warmed up at all.

"If you can tolerate sex or a sex toy, most people will be able to tolerate a speculum," explains Dr Kaye.

But if it is painful, then your doctor or nurse can use a smaller one.

Put the speculum in yourself

"In my experience that's never happened to me - if somebody wanted to try, I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it," says Dr Kaye.

"It might need a slight change in positioning - but I would be willing to talk about it and try."

There is talk of a self-sampling test coming in, which would just involve putting a swab in the vagina.

"I think it is something we are going to do in the future and will encourage more women to screen."

Ask to change position

Page 1 of 2