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AIBU to ask if you've ever got over a traumatic smear test?

66 replies

jenn890 · 20/12/2019 10:42

Just that, really.

I don't want to go into the detail, but I had my first smear maybe 10 or 15 years ago and it was a very traumatic experience.

Today my new doctor casually mentioned the fact I hadn't been for a recent smear and when she asked why I didn't want to have one, I just burst into tears. I couldn't control it - the thought of going through that experience again automatically triggers some very intense feelings.

I felt awful at sobbing in front of my doctor and making her feel bad for bringing it up and I did make sure I thanked her because I do of course know why she wanted to encourage me to go. But I just can't get over this association of smears with The Worst Thing Ever.

Has anyone else ever had what they consider to be a traumatic smear experience and managed to bring themselves to go back? How did you get to that place? I know most smears are supposed to be mildly unpleasant but fine, but that wasn't my experience and the logical part of my brain can't persuade the emotional part of my brain to woman up.

I have a friend right now battling cancer (different kind, but still cancer) so please don't tell me I'm being idiotic for avoiding a routine screening - I know getting a smear is where the smart money is at, but I can't control or describe what my response is. I'd love to hear from anyone who was me and has managed to get over themselves. Please.

OP posts:

CandlesBlanketsandTea · 20/12/2019 10:46

I'm sorry to read that, it sounds like a pretty serious reaction and I think it might be wise to get some counselling to support you with processing your trauma.

Logic doesn't get a look in when trauma is in charge.


hopeishere · 20/12/2019 10:47

Did your doctor offer any advice or suggest counselling?


calmama · 20/12/2019 10:47

I don’t think anyone can advise you on that. I’ve had a couple of very negative smear experiences but am not hesitant to return as scheduled so I guess I’m over it.

But your experience could be very different to mine. It sounds like you have more of a reason to feel negative towards them...? What happened?


jenn890 · 20/12/2019 10:50

@hopeishere No, she was mostly mortified she had upset me. As was I. Plus it was at the end of my appointment so there wasn't really any time to go into it - like I said, she only casually mentioned it on my way out, probably naturally assuming it wasn't a big deal.

OP posts:

woodchuck99 · 20/12/2019 10:53

I'm sorry you had a bad experience. Without knowing what's happened I don't think anyone can advise on whether you will get over it. People may say that they they got over a negative experience but if it wasn't similar to yours it's not really relevant.


BonnyConnie · 20/12/2019 10:54

I’ve never had a bad smear experience but I really do t think it’s a case of manning up. It sounds like what you experienced was very difficult and has left you with long term mental scars. I would really suggest seeking mental health support. You would if you were raped or were involved in a terrible accident. I’m sure you’d never tell someone who went through an experience like that to suck it up. So why are you being so unkind to yourself? Your feelings are 100% valid and you should be ashamed of asking for help dealing with them so that you can have a better quality of life. Flowers


MrsFoxPlus4Again · 20/12/2019 11:00

I think you should book some counselling if possible. Don’t be ashamed to voice to the GP why your so scared and what happend. Your feelings are 100% valid but I’d work towards working though them and being able to have another smear in the future.


Pegase · 20/12/2019 11:01

Yes my first was very very painful and I was worried to go back. Since then, I have had more sympathetic nurses who have used a narrower speculum which has helped. I have also given birth since then which has made me more able to cope with the pain.


chillykiwi · 20/12/2019 11:03

Not a traumatic one but an embarrasing one, I went and they couldn't find my cervix. I won't go into detail but I haven't been since.


jenn890 · 20/12/2019 11:07

You've all been a lot nicer than I was expecting, thank you. I really do mean that.

@MrsFoxPlus4Again I'm not sure I can explain why I'm so scared, if indeed I am scared. I don't know if I would label this as fear - I suppose the sobbing sounds like fear, but I can't quite put into words how I do actaully feel. It's all very irrational. It's definitely an 'I'm not doing that' type reaction but I can't quite articulate why.

@Pegase Did you just hope for best when you went back, or did you try to go to a particular practice and/or speak to the nurses beforehand?

OP posts:

TotheletterofthelawTHELETTER · 20/12/2019 11:10

I’m so sorry you had a traumatic experience.

I have a friend who experienced sexual assault and a smear was too much for her. She found that her GP Practice Nurse was empathetic and spent a number of appointments just talking to her about it. I’ve mentioned this before and people ranted how I was wrong and it never happened but it did... she was given a very low dose of Valium (the sort of dosage you’d give to someone scared of flying to get them on a plane) before her smear and while she still struggled it enabled her to have it done.

It’s definitely worth speaking to your gp or practice nurse about options for you. Xx


Ozgirl75 · 20/12/2019 11:13

When I had my second smear, I was about 21/22 and they asked if a trainee could do it. “Sure” I said, assuming they would be vaguely trained.

It was painful, scrapy, took ages, I bled heavily, nearly passed out with the pain and period like contractions afterwards. Not good.

It’s 20 years later now and I do go and get them done, but always explain that I had a very bad one once, and can they not talk, and do it as quickly and carefully as possible.

I’ve never had another bad one at all.

It’s worth talking to someone about it - I used to dread it leading up to them, and it’s still my least favourite medical thing to do, but I can get through it.


Pegase · 20/12/2019 11:16

@jenn890 I think I had moved house by then so it was a different practice but when they did the preamble conversation, I mentioned it had gone very badly last time and I was feeling nervous so they were very careful. I think I asked for the narrow speculum a couple of times too.


Pegase · 20/12/2019 11:17

I really haven't found them to feel the same each time though so you may (like me) just have had someone less competent / careful for the first one.


Overdueanamechange · 20/12/2019 11:20

The only traumatic part is making the appointment for me! If its uncomfortable you may have a tilted cervix; I have to make a fist under my back to change the angle slightly, but that's it.


DryShampooholic · 20/12/2019 11:20

I suffered from vaginismus in the past and smear test where horrific (I actually think it was a bad smear test that caused the condition in the first place). In the short term I was given diazepam which helped and made sure I booked at least half a day of work. I went on to have CBT, which was amazing and I am now much better, I usually get a bit anxious, but can get through all procedures easily without drugs and can carry on as normal. Ask your GP/Nurse for help, mine where amazing and took my concerns seriously.


MrsFoxPlus4Again · 20/12/2019 11:30

It’s not irrational at all your feelings are valid. Maybe some therapy can help you work out why you feel that way. Don’t be so hard on yourself!


TheLittleBrownFox · 20/12/2019 11:31

I'm sorry you're still suffering quite some time after the trauma. Flowers

Would taking a trusted friend as a chaperone and asking for a very experienced and understanding doctor or nurse help?


Redcrayons · 20/12/2019 11:38

I hear you, I'm six months overdue on mine and ignoring it because my last one was awful. It hurt a lot and I was bleeding afterwards. I get so annoyed with seeing all the publicity around it with it's a few minutes feeling uncomfortable/nothing to be embarassed about stuff.

I will go again, because it's too important not too. I just need to work myself up to it.


maddening · 20/12/2019 11:40

What happened in the traumatic smear?


Kelkelkelkelkel · 20/12/2019 11:58

I also had one and it was awful. They found not so nice cells so I had to push through the fear with the help of my Dr. She used a plastic speculum and the smallest available, she also got me to insert it which although felt odd at the time really helped. Deep breaths and Bach flower rescue remedy helped calm me also.
Good luck xx


Sleephead1 · 20/12/2019 12:30

Hi I work in a surgery some of our patients have their smears with a female gp who specialises in family planning. Would you be happier if a gp did it ?


MereDintofPandiculation · 20/12/2019 12:37

Hi I work in a surgery some of our patients have their smears with a female gp who specialises in family planning. Would you be happier if a gp did it ? I had a bad experience where the nurse couldn't complete the smear because of the pain. She suggested I try again with the GP who specialised in family planning, and, while not pain-free, it was bearable. If I remember rightly, usual technique is to put the tool in and open it and then find the cervix; the GP felt with her fingers to find the cervix then was able to use a narrower tool. I also carried out my usual technique of a couple of ibruprofen beforehand.


Soulsista14 · 20/12/2019 12:42

I had a traumatic smear the first time and couldn’t go back for years. When I changed GP surgery and met a GP I felt comfortable with, I explained the situation to her and she was absolutely lovely. She gave me something to relax me on the day and went very slowly and told me she would stop whenever I wanted her to. I felt so relieved when I left that I’d managed to get through it and hardly feel any anxiety at all now when I think about the first time. Maybe you just need to find a doctor or nurse you are comfortable with and explain the situation Flowers


Shamoo · 20/12/2019 12:43

I have had a lot of pain and problems with mine in the past. Much much better since they started using a thinner speculum. If it’s a pain thing then there are options to explore, but you have my sympathies!

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