Before going into your first appointment, people usually describe Pap smears to first-timers as uncomfortable. "It's uncomfortable," they say, "but it doesn't hurt." However, for many, the opposite is true.
In truth, the real saying should be: "It should not hurt to get a Pap smear," as 33-year-old midwife Pamela Boatner pointed out in a now-viral video.
"Hey sis," Boatner said while tapping on the screen to get viewers' attention. "This is your midwife talking. It should not hurt to get a Pap smear. Pay attention, because this is what you need to do to make sure that your next annual exam goes smoothly."
"First thing you need to do is ask for a smaller speculum, because 9 times out of 10, they're using that big birther speculum, and unless you've had a 15-pound baby or have a pelvic disorder, you probably don't need that," she said.
Secondly, Boatner suggested asking "for plenty of lubrication on the speculum, because we're not jamming it in there all raw. We don't have time for that today."
You can also "change your position," she said. "Sometimes, laying on your back with your feet up in those little stirrup things is not what's most comfortable for you. Ask them if you can change your feet and put them in a different position. This might be better for you."
And finally, "When they find your cervix, tell them to tell you exactly what position it's in — left, right, or back — so you can remember and tell them for your next Pap smear to make it easier."
Throughout Boatner's comment section, there were two general tones: those who had no idea Pap smears weren't supposed to hurt, and those who didn't know they had options when it came to advocating for themselves in these situations.
To learn more about keeping comfy during Pap smears, I talked to Boatner, who, in addition to her role as a certified nurse midwife, also serves as cofounder of Prepared Pregnancy, an online educational prenatal tool for pregnant people and their families.
Paxeros / Via giphy.com