I know what you're thinking... And I'm right there with you. But Paps don't have to be all terrible and awful! First off, did you know that midwives provide Paps? And not in a sterile and cold environment, with your feet in metal stirrups and your provider treating your tender parts like a box on a checklist...🙅🏻♀️👎🏻
I'm talking about trauma-informed, at your own pace, with your comfort and feeling of safety as the number one priority kind of Pap. That kind of Pap that includes a conversation before to discuss any fears, concerns or questions you have, time to allow your nervous system to adapt and integrate before rushing in, consent at every step of the way. And also, a heated blanket, comfy pillows to support your body and the option to insert the speculum yourself, if you'd like! My co-midwife coined there term "Glam Pap" and honestly, I love it and I'm stealing it to use here, because that's how amazing we want you to feel when you take your health screening into your own hands 🌸
A brief word on speculums: I hate them, too 😩 And I know there are people out there doing amazing work to try to make the current design "more comfortable," but truly, I vote we scrap speculums altogether and come up with an entirely new design that 100% prioritizes your body and your needs. I have a few ideas, but that's for another time... What I (and other providers) can do, is to do our absolute best to help you feel as safe and as comfortable as possible with the options that we do have until a better solution comes to fruition.
Pap smears, also known as Paps, play a significant role in detecting cervical changes and potential signs of cervical cancer. Here’s what you need to know about these screenings:
1. What is a Pap Smear? A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix, which are then examined to identify any abnormalities that might indicate early stages of cervical cancer or other cervical issues. These cells are collected by inserting a speculum into the vaginal canal, so the provider can see and reach the cervix. Once the provider can see the cervix, the provider sweeps or scrapes the cervix with a special kind of swab that picks up the cervical cells. These cells are sent to the lab for analysis. Since this is a screening, if the results show abnormalities, follow-up testing is recommended. If the results are normal, then you'll follow the screening guidelines below.
2. Screening Guidelines: The frequency of Pap smears depends on factors such as your age, medical history, and risk factors. Here’s a general guideline:
Ages 21 to 29: Pap smear every 3 years.
Ages 30 to 65: Pap smear every 3 years, or a combination of Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years.
Ages 65 and older: If you’ve had regular screenings with normal results, you might not need further screenings. Meet with your provider to discuss further!
3. HPV Testing: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer. An HPV test might be recommended along with your Pap smear, especially for women aged 30 and older.
4. Follow-Up and Treatment: Like we discussed above, if your Pap smear results indicate abnormal cell changes, your healthcare provider will recommend further testing or treatments as needed. Early detection is key to successful intervention🌟
6. Consult with Your Healthcare Provider: Always consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best screening schedule for your unique circumstances. They can help you make informed decisions based on your medical history, lifestyle, and risk factors, so you are well-supported in keeping your body as healthy as possible.
Remember, your health matters, and proactive screenings contribute to your overall well-being. Stay attuned to your body, prioritize regular check-ups, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek guidance from trusted medical professionals.
And if you have fear or trauma around pelvic exams or Pap smears, there are better options out there for you. Find a local midwife or holistic doctor who offers Paps in your area.
See you next time!
With Love & Gratitude,