Does a Pap Smear Hurt? What Is It Like to Get One?

March 15, 2018

Question: Does a Pap Smear Hurt? 

A Pap smear, or Pap test, looks for its early signs of cervical cancer. (A similar test is also used for anal cancer.)

To carry out a Pap test, a gynecologist inserts a speculum into the vagina. The speculum is then opened so that the physician can see the cervix. At that point, the physician uses a swab to brush some cells from the cervix.

The cells are then analyzed for abnormalities.

The Pap smear is really quite a fast test. It generally is not painful, though it can lead to some bodily discomfort for some people. That’s especially true for those that have an extremely sensitive cervix. Taking the sample may feel just like a little scrape or pinch. The speculum can also be embarrassing, but if it’s tell your physician. Smaller dimensions sometimes make a big difference. 

Current Pap smear guidelines imply that young women should get a Pap test each year – beginning three years when they begin having sex. Pap smears are linked to sexual activity since HPV is thought to cause the huge majority of cervical cancers. But, Pap smears aren’t STD tests. They only detect pre-cancerous cervical changes. They don’t detect other STDs. 

Query: What is a Pap Smear Like?

Some women have strongly negative opinions about the Pap smear.

But the majority of women find it to be no big deal. At the Spring of 2010, the comedian Kathy Griffin even had a Pap smear on camera to elevate awareness of the value of preventative medication for women’s health! Still, it may be pretty frightening going for your first Pap smear. That is particularly true when you’ve heard scary stories out of your buddies.

That’s the reason why I was so excited to read the next description of this experience from a reader.  Bellaluna221 is a girl of 25 who’d been terrified about going to get her initial Pap smear. I thought her story spoke  clearly into the encounter of the many young girls who are worried about visiting the gynecologist for a pelvic exam. And so, I asked her if I could share it with you.

I’d like to provide my expertise for some other girls who, like me, have extremely high levels of anxiety/panic attacks, in hopes that this will allow you to acquire a little bit of strength to get it done!  I will NOT use the word”embarrassing” because it’s so vague. What’s uncomfortable? What degree of non-comfort can it be? Bah. I hate the word. So I may be graphic, and will attempt to use other, more descriptive phrases to help aid in the explanation for what getting a pap smear/exam feels like.

I first and foremost let my doctor know it was my first.time.ever getting this test done. Also, I let her know just how nervous I was (I’m pretty sure she could tell… because I was crying) She chose to utilize the smallest speculum she had, and told me that we can begin slow, and if it gets too stressful, we can stop.

She had me undress, and place on a paper gown, and had me lay back.

I then put my feet in the stirrups, and was taught to slide down to where my butt was on the edge of the table. My physician told me to concentrate on my knees, and keep them relaxed and open as much as you can. I did for about a few seconds. I don’t like focusing on my knees. Lol I focused on my hands that were folded on my chest… I started counting… deep breathing… at one stage I started humming etc..

She let me know she had been becoming the speculum lubed up, and she said”take in a deep breath…. Aaaand allow it out” and onto my exhale, she slid the speculum inside of me. It felt”full”. . .like being full of a dildo, or maybe 3 fingers.

The speculum creates a *click* noise (the plastic ones do anyway) as she opened up it, to better view my nipples. This doesn’t hurt at all – they do not pry you open such as the grand canyon – it is only 1, or 2 *clicks* enough to see inside, and put their small, lanky swabs down. I have a top cervix, so she had to reposition the speculum and do it again… once again,”take in a deep breath… and let it out” Same feeling as before: complete. The speculum has smooth edges, therefore there’s no ripping/scratching/tearing, it is a really slick/smooth ride in. Then she clickedit open – that did not feel like anything, it was just a noise.

Then she told me that she was likely to be taking a sample of my cells, and initially I felt a poke – a sting that was dull. As if you choose a Q-Tip and poked someone’s arm with it. . really. It had been nothing. Then I felt a small stab/pinch – I think she used the mascara-looking-wand for it. Then she removed the speculum – that felt like RELIEF. A slow, gradual relief of this”fullness” feeling. Again, the speculum is smooth, so that it nicely slid out without no issues.

This took about two minutes.

Then she inserted 2 palms and pressed my stomach – this seems like nothing (especially if you’re sexually active.) It doesn’t feel as”complete” as the speculum, since the physician doesn’t possess her hands as deep inside as was the speculum.

This took approximately 30 minutes.

And that was it.


So”uncomfortable” for me personally, was the sensation of being filled, and also a little pinch. I had no qualms about being spread eagle in front of a physician – they have seen worse. Plus, if you don’t feel comfortable being naked around your doctor, maybe you need to think about another physician. Your doctor will make you feel at ease, safe, and welcome. Even when you’re fearful ****** (like I was) your physician should still be able to set you at ease. And mine did! She was calm, friendly, reassuring, and tender.

A whole lot of my anxiety came down to the simple fact that I was letting someone else do something to me, and that I couldn’t see it. I think that’s what a lot of girls are terrified of – placing back, and allowing the physician have full control. I hate needles, and possess a greatly exaggerated fear, entirely irrational of doctors (not dentists though. . weird.) So every medical procedure is a big ordeal for me.

I’d compare it to getting a strep test. Y’understand, where you state”AHHHH” plus they swab the back of your throat? That only requires a moment – and while it is not pleasant, it barely feels like anything at all. . And before you can even react to it, it is over with. And then you feel ridiculous for being afraid of it in the first location.

I hope that my explanation has been comprehensive enough, and that I hope it helps at least a couple of girls understand that, when it comes to panic and anxiety about those things, you’re not alone!