My Story: Living with Vaginismus and Getting a Pap Smear

ARB, who has vaginismus, shares her experience getting a pap smear.


OBOS Today: When you—so, you mentioned in like doctors’ appointments and stuff, also, kind of feeling tense, especially with like pap smears. Have doctors in general been like understanding or have you ever had any bad experiences?

ARB: It’s been mixed.

I actually realized I was preparing for this interview by talking to my therapist today and I was, we were talking about and I realized that it wasn’t, I never really had brought up the issue of pain with a gynecologist even now.

But the first few times I would say doctors did not seem like my first pap smear for example was a disaster.

They had to bring in a second nurse in the room and like hold my legs which you know, feels—

And again right, like I verbally was giving consent that I wanted this done, but my body was so clearly rejecting it.

So, I would say again, it felt—It didn’t feel sympathetic.

It felt like okay we’re gonna just do what we can to get, get you through this as quickly as possible,

Which at the time, you know, in one sense I understand, but like there wasn’t really a lot of attention paid to like the mental side of it.

And also, like even a questioning of like well why is your body reacting like this, like this isn’t a—

You know, pap smears are like—

It can be a little uncomfortable maybe, but like this is an uncommon reaction.

So, I would say only recently have I had an experience where a doctor was like patient with it rather than you know trying to like, I said like having a second nurse in there to keep my legs open or you know that kind of thing.

And again, like that was when I was really young. So, I think it can be really hard as a young person to advocate for yourself in medical spaces and to like even know what a pap smear is. What they’re testing for, what parts of your body they’re like swabbing, etcetera.

So, I think now it took a long time for me to really be able to advocate to doctors about what I needed. So, I think yeah being mindful of that when I was younger was something I definitely wish that I had been aware of.