Hi VPers,

I just thought I'd mention first that I joined this community a long time ago and it's been tremendously helpful–I've learned a lot, and I've never felt uncomfortable with myself when reading others' posts. But this is the first post I'm making myself. I checked the memories archive first, but they didn't quite answer my question.

So I'm 21 (just yesterday!) and I've been sexually active since I was 17. Through a silly sequence of events, I ended up not actually going to my doctor since he first prescribed me birth control pills when I first became sexually active. (I've been on the pill since then, however.)

So I went in to get my prescription renewed today after 3 years, and he told me that I would need to come in agin soon for my first Pap smear. And this is where my concerns come in…

I have a long-term boyfriend with whom I'm very comfortable intimately. I also go for regular Brazilian waxes. But somehow, the thought of this medical professional–who's known me since I was 9 and still calls me "kiddo"–seeing me naked makes me very uncomfortable.

I'm not worried about any positive test results; I know my boyfriend's sexual history and I'm not concerned about STIs or HPV. I know I'm in good general health down there, and I maintain good hygiene habits for my ladyparts. I'm just nervous about being all naked and vulnerable and caught in stirrups in front of my doctor. And he told me that it would indeed be him doing the examination. He didn't mention, and I didn't think to ask, if there would be a female assistant present.

So I guess all I'm asking–since I've already read up on the procedures involved in the Pap smear and the bi-manual examination and all–is…any tips for me on how to feel less nervous about the whole situation? Anything from personal experiences that might help me? Anything I should say? And one thing that really caught my attention in the VP archives: why do I need to take *all* my clothes off? Isn't that excessive?

I'm honestly DREADING this.  I know it's irrational, but I guess I'm just a much more "private" person than I ever thought…I just feel silly.

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

EDIT: Thanks to everyone for the helpful tips and for sharing their personal experiences. I'm going to call my doctor's office when I'm ready and ask all my questions about their specific policies (regarding female nurses, dressing, breast exams, etc), and if I'm not happy with what I hear, I will take your advice and ask to be referred to a ladyparts specialist.
VP does not let me down! <3

Tagged with →  

24 Responses to First Ever Pap Test?

  1. XdxWoman says:

    In my experience, I was never naked. I was always covered by a sheet or had my shirt on depending on what was going on. Your doctor won’t be looking at anything more than is necessary.

  2. Tnaova says:

    You could always go see a different doctor at an OBGYN practice or even a nurse practitioner at the same practice. I go see a midwife for mine and keep my “regular doctor” for being sick, blood tests and prescriptions (not related to my vagina).

  3. Eneora says:

    This this this. I’ve never seen my PCP for my GYN health, and it is certainly not uncommon for women to see someone else for it although many PCPs will do at least exams, pap smears, and such (although not all)

    I’ve always been asked to strip down, and given a gown to wear on top — the open part in the front, so it was accessible for the breast exam. And then given a sheet to cover my lower half with, before and after examination, and even during (the doctors and midwives I’ve seen pull it back some, but also just kinda go under the “tent”.

    My local Planned Parenthood will not let anyone go back to the exam with you, but most private offices I’ve seen have absolutely no problem with a friend or relative if that’s what you’d like. And they should always provide a female staff, if a male is performing the exam — even though he’s a professional.

  4. Gni007 says:

    My local Planned Parenthood will let you request someone come with – my ex asked for me to accompany her due to fear and trauma on her part. They’ll have you go back individually at first but you can request someone’s presence for the procedure. It’s pretty unusual for an office to say you *can’t* have someone else with you – there are plenty of people who need to for a variety of reasons (like guardianship, medical advocacy, etc).

  5. Eneora says:

    That’s awesome, and good to know that not all are the same way. Mine might be different for a guardian — I could absolutely see that, on a legal aspect. I just know when I asked for my partner to come back (more so I had someone to chat with while waiting), they wouldn’t let her. And she had wanted me to come back because she was nervous bc it was her first time, but they said no.

    I am guessing it stems from wanting people to be able to be open and honest at the appointment (especially if there is abuse, or if they’ve done something and they’re afraid someone might judge them?), but I definitely wish that there was at least the option — for people who have had bad experiences, who don’t understand some things (ex — I usually go to the doctor with my grandma as I’m a nurse, and when the doctor reviews her labs or other tests with her, she gets confused even when the doctor explains thing)

  6. Gni007 says:

    The way it’s supposed to work, to the best of my knowledge, is that they’re supposed to ask the patient to come back alone first, to make sure they’re not dealing with an abuse situation. But then if the patient requests that someone come in during a certain procedure, that should be allowed.

  7. LanTuT says:

    If you’re uncomfortable with him doing it, you should be able to request someone else. Whether it just be a female or someone that hasn’t known you forever. I completely understand being uncomfortable in that situation, and there’s no reason for you to feel that way in a doctor’s office.

    You also shouldn’t have to take all your clothes off. I never have. Pants and underwear, yeah of course. I don’t see any reason for them to request you be completely naked when they’re only examining your lower half.

  8. 1ezsa says:

    Usually when they do a pap smear, they also do a breast exam and feel around your stomach and uterus areas. You’re always covered by a sheet and they have you put on a paper vest (for lack of a better term) over you so that you’re not just sitting there naked.

    To OP – Just remember that even GP doctors do tons of paps! And they’ve seen many vulva in their time as being a doctor. And I am the same way when it comes to my lady bits. Not even my fiance has really seen them! ;P

  9. LanTuT says:

    My doctor usually does a breast exam and the stomach/uterus poking, but she’s still never made me take my shirt off. All I’ll have to do is unhook my bra but shirt stays on. I do agree though, that if they ask you to take everything off, those paper gowns will at least be involved.

  10. SseNope says:

    Be less nervous: Bring a friend in, be honest about your nervousness beforehand, wear kneesocks or even more clothes, breathe deeply.

    Clothing: In my experience, there’s also a breast exam. But if you decline the breast exam–or choose to do that later–you should be able to keep your top on. I’ve also heard suggestions like tearing a giant hole in the crotch of old underwear so that the doc can still insert the speculum and all, but at least you’ll have underwear on. That might be helpful for you too.

  11. XeNo says:

    Knee socks! That’s genius. That actually made me smile, thank you =)

  12. Eniova says:

    I’ve only had to remove or unhook my bra but could leave my shirt on if the doctor was going to do a breast exam. My doctor now doesn’t even ask me and I’ve been going to her for a couple years now. They always tell me bottoms off and give me a little sheet to cover myself with. I also have my boyfriend come in the room with me every time because I don’t like getting the exams. I don’t even like to be around doctors.

  13. EirFriut says:

    In my experience doctors typically do a breast exam along with a pap smear. So that’s why you’d have your top off as well. But you shouldn’t ever be lying there totally naked – they’ll give you a hospital-type gown (open in the front) to put on, and usually there’s a sheet you use to cover your bottom half with when you’re not actively being examined.

  14. Eneora says:

    ps —

    Happy belated 21st! 🙂

  15. XeNo says:

    Re: ps —

    Thanks! You’ve been a great help, by the way =)

  16. Dnkoma says:

    Almost all medical practices have a policy that if a male person performs a pelvic exam, there needs to be a female staff member in the room. If somehow this practice doesn’t have that policy but you would like a female staff member present, you can ask for one. Also many offices will allow someone to come with you (although they may first ask you privately if you want that person with you.)

    Of course as others have said, if you are uncomfortable with a particular person doing a particular exam, you can always decline and ask for a referral to another caregiver. Or you could decide that you don’t want the exam at all – while your doctor is recommending it and you may want to follow his recommendations – you always have the right to decline any recommended test, procedure or treatment.

  17. Dooeva says:

    why do I need to take *all* my clothes off? Isn’t that excessive?

    You don’t. You absolutely don’t need to take off really any clothes at all except underwear. If I were going to get a pap test I would just wear a long skirt and leave everything on except underwear. I would refuse the bimanual and the breast exam–there’s no evidence they have any medical value and there is evidence they cause harm through overdiagnosis–and not use stirrups. It drives me insane that it’s common practice to a)associate pap testing with birth control b)do bimanual pelvic exams routinely–they should only be done if you have symptoms b)have clients change into gowns and c) use stirrups. None of these things are medically necessary.

    Of course you do not have to have a pap test at all if you don’t want to. Do it only if you genuinely want cervical cancer screening, not because your doctor is telling you to or because of some arbitrary age. At a bare minimum, DON’T go to a doctor that you’re uncomfortable with.

  18. XeNo says:

    That’s what I’m talking about with the stirrups! It’s not like I’m gonna kick the guy. I’m a civilized person, I don’t need to be restrained. It’s torture enough already having cold metal instruments poking around down there…good to know I have the option to not use them!

  19. Ttefornia says:

    It is totally, totally acceptable for you to say “I’d rather see someone else for the exam.” It is also totally acceptable for you to take along a friend or partner and ask to have them present in the room. Additionally, everywhere I’ve been in the UK has notices up saying “please inform your doctor/reception if you’d like an escort”, and a female nurse will then be rustled up.

    Ditto everyone else, additionally, that you can refuse any testing you’re not comfortable with.

  20. Dekdy says:

    It is totally, totally acceptable for you to say “I’d rather see someone else for the exam.”

    Also, I’m just going to add — as someone who started going for GYN care where their mother went for GYN care — I have a hunch it’s not even unusual for someone to ask, “I want to see someone different than I have for my earlier/younger care”/”I want to see someone different than the person my parent sees”/(implicitly) “I want to have a measure of privacy in my sexual/reproductive health concerns.”

  21. 29dWoman says:

    Just in case- if your boyfriend has had any sexual contact with other people, it’s possible he’s been exposed to HPV. It’s not something they can test for, however.

    Unless he hasn’t in which case point is MOOT 🙂

  22. XeNo says:

    Ooooh I’m familiar with HPV, I do a lot of studies in molecular biology and virology. It would be a moot point in this case =) which is why I’m not worried about the results aspect of my tests…

  23. Leaora says:

    I’d be way uncomfortable with a doctor who’s known me since I was a kid and calls me “kiddo” poking around down there, too. There’s nothing wrong in keeping that doctor for all general stuff, and going to a different doctor for breast/down thar related stuff. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself comfortable.

    And, happy birthday. 🙂

  24. XeNo says:

    When he first suggested I do a Pap test, I asked him if I would have to go to a specialist and he said no, he would be doing it himself. I didn’t really consider that I had the option to request it, since it really just caught me off guard.

    And thanks =)

Leave a Reply