This post is going to talk about gynecology stuffs, specifically: the colposcopy. If you don’t want to know about this fucked up vagina procedure, feel free to skip, or better yet, pass this on to someone who you love who has a vagina.
A colposcopy is done when your have an abnormal pap smear that warrants a closer look. It is a way to screen for precancerous or cancerous cells. A colposcopy truly can turn physically and emotionally painful quickly, and the emotional roller-coaster that can follow is real. I have had two colposcopies before, both yielding no further action. However the one I had today was a worse experience than the other two. Then again, maybe I have some kind of post-colposcopy amnesia that keeps me from running in the opposite direction of the gyno’s office. This is partly why I am writing this post; so that maybe – just maybe – I will take my own advice should I (better not) have to do this procedure again. Mostly I hope this information helps you be better prepared for a colposcopy in the event that you need one.
My vagina is hard to put a speculum into. At 42 it’s drier and, even with lube, my doctor had to try three different speculums before finding the one that wouldn’t cause me too much pain and help her see what she needed to. Even then, she had to take the speculum out, and re-insert it twice because the walls of my vagina kept pushing in. Because my vagina was being stubborn, this colposcopy lasted much longer than usual. I’ve heard most sources say the procedure takes around 5-10 minutes, but mine felt like it took 15-20 minutes. The pinching and prodding felt worse as time went by. I was nauseous, felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, and kept cramping. Every poke and pinch shot increasing pain through my body and towards the last 10 minutes I started crying ( I seriously told myself I wouldn’t cry this time). The pain was getting worse and I had a huge flood of painful emotions coming up. I felt helpless, ashamed, and angry. I wanted to love my body so much, and felt like somehow I betrayed it but having to go through this.
By the end I was dizzy and wobbly. It took me a little longer to get up off the table and get dressed. I felt like a wreak. The loneliness was still there overall I just felt icky. Thankfully I was given a pad for the inevitable bleeding that was to immediately follow. As I left the doctor’s office I dreaded going to work, I was emotionally raw, still in pain, and just wanted to lie down and hug my cervix. It’s been 8 hours and I am still feeling waves of pain on my cervix.
Looking back, here is what I wish I would have done.
- Taken a Benzodiazepine. I have a prescription for Ativan that I use for significant anxiety. I don’t use it often but I sure could have used it this morning. I was so nervous, as I knew from past experience, that a colposcopy is painful. I’m not much of a talker, but I was quite the chatty Cathy with the physician’s assistant (who was a total love). I noticed it was hard for me to relax when the speculum was being inserted, which made the whole procedure more painful, and take longer.
- Brought a friend. Something about this procedure leaves me feeling so scared and alone (even with a patient doctor and comforting physician’s assistant). I wish I would have brought the most compassionate person I know to be with me and hold my hand through the whole thing. Never underestimate the power of a safe compassionate presence. Plus, having someone to drive home would have been super nice.
- Taken time off. I had the procedure done first thing in the morning, and I wish I would have taken the morning or day off. I was light-headed, sore, and walking slowly. Being able to lay in bed and drink hot tea would have been a great way to practice self-care.
- Read this blog post. Seriously. Her honesty and humor feel comforting to me now, and if I would have read the post BEFORE the procedure this morning, I would have done all of what I listed above.
Even if your vagina isn’t as stubborn as mine, a colposcopy is generally painful. I hope this information prepares you for the procedure. Many hugs to you!
Note: I do not have a sexual trauma history and have never had an abortion. If this is a part of your history, I highly recommend ramping up on support people and measures when having a colposcopy. The experience of having someone causing you pain in your vagina and not being able to make it stop can trigger strong feelings and memories of being violated and/or having painful vaginal procedures. Talk to your doctor before you schedule your colposcopy to see if they have any additional recommendations.