Despite women's healthcare being at the forefront of political conversation right now, one form of care that is not discussed enough is the Pap smear.
The Pap smear is meant to be an annual check for cervical cancer, starting at the age of 21 or when the patient becomes sexually active. It involves expanding the patient's vaginal opening with a, typically metal, speculum, followed by swabbing the cervix for cell samples.
In theory, the Pap smear should not be painful or stressful, but for many patients it's so traumatizing that they avoid going to their annual appointments.
One midwife, Pamela Boatner (@prepared_pregnancy on TikTok) wanted to increase awareness around the fact that Pap smears actually shouldn't hurt, and armed patients with ways to self-advocate at the gynecologist.
Boatner smacked the screen to get her viewers' attention and said:
"Hey sis. This is your midwife talkin'. It should not hurt to get a Pap smear."
To help patients be more comfortable at their next annual exam, Boatner encouraged them to do the following:
First, address the speculum being used.
"The first thing you need to do is ask for a smaller speculum, because 9 times out 10, they're using that big birthing speculum, and unless you have a 15-pound baby to deliver or a pelvic disorder, you probably don't need that."
"Ask for plenty of lubrication on the speculum, because we're not jamming it in there all [raw]. We don't have time for that."
"If they're using a metal speculum, please have them take 15 seconds to warm up the speculum for you, because cold down there? No, nobody wants to do that, either."
Second, make sure to be in the best position for you.
"Change your position. Change your position. Sometimes laying down on your back with your feet in those little stirrup things is not the 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."
Third, know where your cervix is if you don't already.
"When they find your cervix, tell them to tell you exactly what position it's in. Left, right, or back."
"Then you can remember and tell them for your next Pap smear to make it easier."
You can watch the video here:
In a follow-up video, Boatner showed several positions patients could try if lying on their back and putting their feet up in the stirrups was uncomfortable for them. She pointed out that each vagina is a little different, as is the exact positioning of the cervix.
Because of those positioning differences, it would stand to reason that lying in different positions would make varying cervical locations more accessible.
You can watch the second video here:
TikTokers were grateful for the information Boatner provided.
Other TikTokers were shocked that these tips were even an option.
The video inspired many patients who had traumatic experiences with this particular exam to try a few of these tips at their next appointment.
We would like to suggest making this video required viewing material for all patients prior to their first exam so they don't have to learn these tips the hard way.
There's no sense in suffering if there's been a hack for easier exams all this time.