I talk a lot about my difficulties with Vaginismus on the blog, because it’s something a surprising amount of people with vaginas suffer from, and are often not diagnosed. That said, these tips on getting a smear test with vaginismus will also help if you’re someone who is just a little anxious for your smear test anyway – I’m yet to meet someone who is excited about the concept of a smear test, but it’s important so it’s gotta be done.
What is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is basically the involuntary spasm of muscles in the vagina that can cause penetration to be painful, or in some cases, impossible. My sex therapist explained it to me like this: If you go to touch your eye, it’s okay, because your body knows there’s no danger, it’s you doing it, you know what to expect and it’s not going to hurt. But if someone else goes to touch your eye, even if you know in your mind they’ll be gentle, your eyelid is like ‘no thank you’ and involuntarily closes.
My vagina is like that. It tenses up because it’s worried it’s going to get hurt again, and that tensing makes it hurt. So the next time, I know it’s going to hurt again. It’s a very unsexy and unfun cycle.
Worrying about pain during a smear test
My first smear test was due right in the middle of my sex therapy sessions. I discussed it with the therapist and he made a referral for me to have mine done by a particularly gentle person, who understood the condition. She used a smaller speculum (the weird plastic duck thing that goes inside) and really took her time, telling me exactly what she was doing, and reassuring me that we could stop whenever I needed to. Thanks to some deep breathing and her being super careful, it was absolutely fine.
A few weeks ago I had my second smear test (those little buggers come around far too often don’t they?!) and I just went to the usual nurse at my practise. I explained that I struggle with vaginismus and again, she was really kind and took it slow. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable at all and it literally took seconds.
One trick I learned during physio that I still use now, is to clench your muscles (like you’re stopping yourself having a wee) and then relax just before it goes in (the speculum, your partner, whatever happens to be on it’s way in the hole as it were) and that helps the muscles be at their most relaxed. This has served me well, and is something I do before my smear test (also before a sweep with Roo and any other vaginal examinations).
The best thing you can do, if you’re worried about your smear, is to communicate with the person administering it. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last and they should listen to you and respect your worries.
It’s hard because I know that one bad experience will put people off, and that’s totally understandable, but at the same time, it’s so important to get checked.
I realise this isn’t my usual hilarious style (if I do say so myself), but I do think it’s something really important to talk about and if you ever want to chat about vaginas, drop into my DMs.
PS – finding an image for this took longer than writing the bloody post!