Getting a pap smear is never an enjoyable experience, but it’s a necessary evil. Dr Mary Stewart is the Acting Medical Director at Family Planning NSW. Here she reveals 11 things that your doctor wishes you wouldn’t do before a pap test – for both your sakes.
1. Vajazzle before your appointment
“I wish women wouldn’t worry about having to shave or wax before coming to see me, because I really don’t care if they’ve waxed or shaved, and it’s entirely up to them what they want to do with their pubic hair – we see all sorts of different women with all sorts of embellishments on their vulva and it makes no difference to us.
“I’m really sorry I didn’t shave,” is one thing I hear – and my response? It absolutely doesn’t matter either way.”
2. Not telling your doctor when you have a concern about your vulva
“I think it’s important that women tell us what they are concerned about before we examine them – this way we can see if there is a problem and reassure them if there isn’t.
“Sometimes a client will ask once they’re putting their clothes back on, “Did you notice that area on my vulva I’m worried about?” it’s not particularly helpful at that point – if they mentioned it up front it would be much more beneficial.”
3. Book a short appointment
“I wish women booked longer appointments! Even though it’s a short procedure, it does take a little bit of time beforehand to talk about it, fill in forms, and it’s a good opportunity to talk about other reproduction and sexual health issues.
“Just let the receptionist know beforehand that it’s for a pap test, or they can tell them they would like a long consultation, that way the appropriate time can be booked.”
4. Wear clothes that take a long time to change in and out of
“Make sure you wear comfortable clothes that you feel comfortable taking on and off without feeling embarrassed.
“To be having a conversation with your GP while struggling to put stockings back on can be uncomfortable, and awkward [for the patient].”
5. Not telling your doctor that you have found pap smears uncomfortable in the past
“I wish women would tell us if they had difficulties with pap smears before, because it shouldn’t be a painful procedure. If we know it has been a uncomfortable in the past, there are things we can do to make sure our patient is a little bit more at ease.”
6. Not having oestrogen pills beforehand if you’re post menopausal.
“Women who are post menopausal can see their doctor a week or two before their pap test to request some vaginal oestrogen cream or tablets – this will ensure that the procedure is a little bit more comfortable for them.