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  • Concerns About Pelvic Exam

    So I am 32 years old, and I have never had a PAP smear or pelvic exam. I have been putting it off since I am not sexually active in terms of vaginal intercourse, so I figured the risk of anything being wrong in there is low, and my doctors have always agreed and allowed me to put it off. But now my doctor really wants to do this, and I am very scared. I have a lot of trust issues (those and health/safety concerns are largely what has stopped me from having intercourse, though I am sexually active in other ways and do want to have intercourse once I find the right person/situation). I am afraid I am going to panic when the doctor starts trying to stick metal objects in me. I did mention my concerns to her at my last visit. She was understanding, but also reassured me that she is very good at this and that it isn't painful. But it's not about her; it's about me. I don't know if I can psychologically cope with this. And I have heard from other female friends about really bad/painful experiences with pelvic exams, so I am not sure I believe the doctor. I am thinking about getting a dildo to get used to things being in there, though obviously that is still a lot different from what will happen during an exam LOL. So I am wondering if anyone has any tips to prepare for this exam? Thanks.

  • First, you're certainly not alone in your apprehension. Pap smears can feel invasive (largely because they kind of are — it takes a great deal of trust to allow anyone inside you, even a doctor.)

    That said, a few things, if it helps:

    1. Your doctor SHOULD have a small speculum available (the plastic "tool" that's inserted vaginally to open the canal gently) to improve comfort. Generally, the way it goes: they lube it well, gently insert it, and then gently open it. (It does NOT open the canal wide, just makes it possible for the doctor to insert a very thin tool that takes the sample.)

    Since she knows you're concerned, the smallest speculum is the one she should reach for but you can ask for it, specifically. And doctors worth their salt will tell you exactly what they're doing as they go — so no surprises as they touch you, insert it, take the sample, etc.

    (And too, anymore, there is always a second person in the room — a nurse, generally. That person may even be able to hold your hand as it's done, if that might help you.)

    2. Do not let other people's horror stories scare you away from having it done. Pap smears are generally NOT painful — the tool that's used to obtain the cell sample essentially just brushes the cervix gently for a few seconds. In my own experience, I never really felt much of anything until I no longer had a cervix. (I'm a cervical cancer survivor but still have to have paps every three years — those, I feel a little discomfort but the tissue itself has changed... it's basically just vaginal tissue now so it's a bit different.) Prior to that, though, the pap itself was entirely painless.

    3. Deep breathing exercises before and during the exam can help you to relax. I don't know if it will help you but I'll offer advice for something that helps me whenever I'm faced with something I'm dreading (medical or otherwise):

    I personally focus on the idea that the thing I'm dreading will only take X amount of time, X minutes out of one long day — and in the grand scheme of things, it'll be over in no time.

    So in terms of a pap smear, it's... MAYBE three minutes, tops. Likely closer to 90 seconds or two minutes. Honestly, they're in and out (literally) and it's over before you know it.

    Holding on to that idea (for me, at least), helps to make that bearable — like I can remind myself that it's just a couple of minutes, breathe, I can make it through two minutes, and then it'll be over.

    It's a psychological trick I've relied on for things that fill me with dread (for whatever reason — public speaking, uncomfortable medical stuff, anything), and it really does seem to help.

    If you think it might help you to get used to having something inside your vagina, you might consider "training" it with a small dildo — especially if you feel it would help you to become accustomed to the sensation to avoid tensing up later on.

    But relaxation during the exam is key. If you're incredibly tense, your vagina is going to be tense as well — and that can make insertion much, much more uncomfortable.

    Deep breathing exercises, before and during, can help. Take a few very deep, slow belly breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) before it begins, focus ON your breath, and continue that breathing through the exam. Again, it's just a couple of minutes start to finish — the space of 10, 15 breaths at most.

    And then it's done.

    I hope this helps some — and I'm happy to answer questions or talk about this more. I've had more than my fair share of cervical tests and understand how real the struggle is.

    Comment


    • Thank you for this! It is really helpful. I am also one of those "let's get this over with" type of people, so I totally understand focusing on the fact that it will be over with soon. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain how the whole process works. I will definitely work on the breathing exercises as well.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by FeelingWeird View Post
        So I am 32 years old, and I have never had a PAP smear or pelvic exam. I have been putting it off since I am not sexually active in terms of vaginal intercourse, so I figured the risk of anything being wrong in there is low, and my doctors have always agreed and allowed me to put it off. But now my doctor really wants to do this, and I am very scared. I have a lot of trust issues (those and health/safety concerns are largely what has stopped me from having intercourse, though I am sexually active in other ways and do want to have intercourse once I find the right person/situation). I am afraid I am going to panic when the doctor starts trying to stick metal objects in me. I did mention my concerns to her at my last visit. She was understanding, but also reassured me that she is very good at this and that it isn't painful. But it's not about her; it's about me. I don't know if I can psychologically cope with this. And I have heard from other female friends about really bad/painful experiences with pelvic exams, so I am not sure I believe the doctor. I am thinking about getting a dildo to get used to things being in there, though obviously that is still a lot different from what will happen during an exam LOL. So I am wondering if anyone has any tips to prepare for this exam? Thanks.


        It's important to address any worries or questions you may have to help alleviate your concerns. Here are a few common concerns people may have about pelvic exams and some information to consider:
        1. Pain or Discomfort: Pelvic exams can cause some discomfort, but they shouldn't be excessively painful. The amount of discomfort can vary depending on factors such as individual sensitivity, anxiety levels, and the skill of the healthcare provider. It can help to communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any discomfort you experience during the exam, as they may be able to adjust their technique or provide additional support.
        2. Embarrassment or Modesty: It's natural to feel embarrassed or uneasy about the exposure and vulnerability associated with a pelvic exam. Remember that healthcare providers are professionals who perform these exams routinely. They are trained to create a comfortable environment and respect your privacy and dignity. If you feel particularly uncomfortable, you can request a chaperone or ask about the possibility of having a same-gender healthcare provider.
        3. Fear of a Negative Diagnosis: Some individuals may worry that a pelvic exam will reveal a serious health issue. While pelvic exams are an important tool for detecting certain conditions, such as cervical cancer or sexually transmitted infections, it's crucial to remember that these exams are preventive and diagnostic measures. A negative exam result is good news, and if an issue is detected, early detection often leads to better treatment outcomes.
        4. History of Trauma: If you have a history of trauma, undergoing a pelvic exam may trigger distressing memories or feelings. It's crucial to communicate this to your healthcare provider before the exam. They can take steps to ensure your comfort and provide appropriate support throughout the process. You may also consider seeking care from a provider who specializes in trauma-informed care.
        5. Lack of Understanding: Not knowing what to expect during a pelvic exam can contribute to anxiety. It can be helpful to educate yourself about the procedure, including its purpose, what will happen during the exam, and any potential discomfort or side effects. Asking your healthcare provider questions and discussing your concerns beforehand can also provide you with a clearer understanding and help alleviate fears.

        Remember that open communication with your healthcare provider is key. They can address your concerns, provide additional information, and work with you to make the experience as comfortable as possible. If you're still feeling uneasy, you can also seek a second opinion or explore alternative diagnostic options with your healthcare provider

        Comment


        • You've got some great ideas here! To tag onto the information provided, I'd like to point out that there is no shame in asking for an oral anti-anxiety medication to take prior to the exam, if you feel that you cannot manage the stress with the techniques mentioned above. Your doctor may prefer to try it without anything first, and if you become too stressed, stop and reschedule for another time and prescribe a mild dose of something to help relax you.

          I'm not one to advocate for these meds, but if it helps you to get through a tough time, I think a one-time dose is fine. It wouldn't be something to sedate you, just to relax and settle you for a few hours.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Eeshan View Post



            It's important to address any worries or questions you may have to help alleviate your concerns. Here are a few common concerns people may have about pelvic exams and some information to consider:
            1. Pain or Discomfort: Pelvic exams can cause some discomfort, but they shouldn't be excessively painful. The amount of discomfort can vary depending on factors such as individual sensitivity, anxiety levels, and the skill of the healthcare provider. It can help to communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any discomfort you experience during the exam, as they may be able to adjust their technique or provide additional support.
            2. Embarrassment or Modesty: It's natural to feel embarrassed or uneasy about the exposure and vulnerability associated with a pelvic exam. Remember that healthcare providers are professionals who perform these exams routinely. They are trained to create a comfortable environment and respect your privacy and dignity. If you feel particularly uncomfortable, you can request a chaperone or ask about the possibility of having a same-gender healthcare provider.
            3. Fear of a Negative Diagnosis: Some individuals may worry that a pelvic exam will reveal a serious health issue. While pelvic exams are an important tool for detecting certain conditions, such as cervical cancer or sexually transmitted infections, it's crucial to remember that these exams are preventive and diagnostic measures. A negative exam result is good news, and if an issue is detected, early detection often leads to better treatment outcomes.
            4. History of Trauma: If you have a history of trauma, undergoing a pelvic exam may trigger distressing memories or feelings. It's crucial to communicate this to your healthcare provider before the exam. They can take steps to ensure your comfort and provide appropriate support throughout the process. You may also consider seeking care from a provider who specializes in trauma-informed care.
            5. Lack of Understanding: Not knowing what to expect during a pelvic exam can contribute to anxiety. It can be helpful to educate yourself about the procedure, including its purpose, what will happen during the exam, and any potential discomfort or side effects. Asking your healthcare provider questions and discussing your concerns beforehand can also provide you with a clearer understanding and help alleviate fears.

            Remember that open communication with your healthcare provider is key. They can address your concerns, provide additional information, and work with you to make the experience as comfortable as possible. If you're still feeling uneasy, you can also seek a second opinion or explore alternative diagnostic options with your healthcare provider
            Thank for all this! I might schedule another appointment just to talk all this through with the doctor before scheduling the actual exam.

            Comment


            • So I bought a dildo and lube yesterday. The dildo is very small, only about four inches and skinny, and curved slightly. It is designed to mimic a real penis. I spent a half hour this evening trying to get it into me and can't past an inch or so. I got basically my whole finger inside myself. But I can't get the dildo in, even with lube. Like it doesn't even really hurt, my vagina just keeps forcing it out no matter how much I push it in. And I am in tears and just basically want to die right now because I know I will never be able to have sex.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by FeelingWeird View Post
                So I bought a dildo and lube yesterday. The dildo is very small, only about four inches and skinny, and curved slightly. It is designed to mimic a real penis. I spent a half hour this evening trying to get it into me and can't past an inch or so. I got basically my whole finger inside myself. But I can't get the dildo in, even with lube. Like it doesn't even really hurt, my vagina just keeps forcing it out no matter how much I push it in. And I am in tears and just basically want to die right now because I know I will never be able to have sex.
                Are you a virgin? I think you are from your other posts and you might have mentioned it in the past but I just want to confirm that. The reason you could not get a dildo in may be due to having an intact hymen. The hymen is slightly inside the vaginal opening which goes along with only being able to get a small dildo in just a bit. In some cases the hymen covers the vaginal opening almost completely but in most cases there are some openings that may allow a finger to go past but are too small for even a relatively small but normal dildo. If you look up hymen in Wikipedia and hymen in Google images, you can see various forms intact hymens take.
                I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.
                ...
                Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

                From a speech by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775 at St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia

                Comment


                • Originally posted by jns View Post

                  Are you a virgin? I think you are from your other posts and you might have mentioned it in the past but I just want to confirm that. The reason you could not get a dildo in may be due to having an intact hymen. The hymen is slightly inside the vaginal opening which goes along with only being able to get a small dildo in just a bit. In some cases the hymen covers the vaginal opening almost completely but in most cases there are some openings that may allow a finger to go past but are too small for even a relatively small but normal dildo. If you look up hymen in Wikipedia and hymen in Google images, you can see various forms intact hymens take.
                  Virginity is not a real thing. It is a social construct, not a biological state of being. I have not had vaginal intercourse, but I do not consider myself a virgin, and the word is offensive to me because it implies that my other sexual experiences are not real. I have read medical literature about hymens, spoken to my doctor about it, and seen the pictures. They cover the outside of the vaginal opening, not the inside. They typically shrink or break on their own during adulthood and can even break from playing sports, so it is extremely unlikely that I would have an intact hymen at my age. In examining my own vaginal opening, it looks completely normal, and there does not even appear to be a hymen there anymore. Further, my doctor suggested I use the dildo to get used to things in my vagina before the exam. She knows I have not had vaginal intercourse and said nothing about hymens. So since I can't get the dildo in me, there is no way she will get a speculum in me either.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by FeelingWeird View Post

                    Virginity is not a real thing. It is a social construct, not a biological state of being. I have not had vaginal intercourse, but I do not consider myself a virgin, and the word is offensive to me because it implies that my other sexual experiences are not real. I have read medical literature about hymens, spoken to my doctor about it, and seen the pictures. They cover the outside of the vaginal opening, not the inside. They typically shrink or break on their own during adulthood and can even break from playing sports, so it is extremely unlikely that I would have an intact hymen at my age. In examining my own vaginal opening, it looks completely normal, and there does not even appear to be a hymen there anymore. Further, my doctor suggested I use the dildo to get used to things in my vagina before the exam. She knows I have not had vagina intercourse and said nothing about hymens. So since I can't get the dildo in me, there is no way she will get a speculum in me either.
                    I should have not used virgin because it has many implications. Mea culpa.

                    The next thing to consider is getting a set of vaginal dilators since the dildo is too big. This may be something to talk to your doctor about before buying. Best wishes. The whole situation sounds painful.
                    I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.
                    ...
                    Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

                    From a speech by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775 at St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia

                    Comment

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