Don’t Fear the Smear and Look After Your Health!

Blogger Amber Pettit offers some helpful advice on keeping healthy whilst you’re at University: 

Register with a GP

So, when you’re a new student at University you need to register to a Doctors’ Surgery. Registering to a GP is a vital in case you unexpectedly become ill and are unable to return home to see your own GP. However, there are some options if you have not registered yet and are unwell, as stated on the Firstpoint website:

If you need medical advice but don’t need a GP you can always call NHS 111 and in an emergency you should ring 999.

There are also hard copies of lists for local Doctors surgeries in Firstpoint. Alternatively you can go on the NHS website and search for surgeries within the post code of your university address. As someone who has recently registered to a new GP you will be required to fill out a couple of forms providing medical history, contact details. Some surgeries, like mine, may ask you to provide photo ID upon registration. However, other surgeries such as Farrier House Surgery allow you to register online.

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Don’t Fear the Smear

So, if like me you have looming 25th birthday (and are biologically female) 6 months prior to your 25th birthday you should receive an NHS letter inviting you for Cervical Screening aka a smear test. Recently there has been discussion in the news surrounding a drop in the numbers of young women attending cervical screening. I felt that much of the article tended to place the blame on young women being too embarrassed to attend their smears. The arguments were reductive and went along the line of “you can get a bikini wax but not a smear” (as if the two are the same!) However there is better content out there, Youtubers such as Hannah Witton (who provides sex and relationship content) and Lex Croucher have both made “Come Smear with Me” (a bit like a get ready with me video but smear test instead of makeup) videos which go through the whole process. Both videos I would highly recommend watching to reassure you that the process isn’t as scary as its been made out to be.

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To book a smear test you need to tell the receptionist what the appointment is for and they’ll pre-book a time for you with the practice nurse. My advice would be to book a date when you know you won’t be on your period. Another tip would be to wear a dress or a skirt if you are feeling self-conscious. I decided to wear a dress to my appointment because I couldn’t be doing with the faff of getting completely undressed from the waist down.

I was called into the nurse’s room and went through some paperwork stating my DOB, contact details etc then signed a consent form. I asked the nurse if I could keep my shoes and socks on but alas, I had to take my shoes off before getting on the bed. Another dilemma I faced was whether I should fold my knickers on the chair or just place them there (I went for folding). This somehow this seemed an important decision at the time but actually I don’t think the nurse cared in the slightest.

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Once you’re on the bed the Nurse will cover your lower half in paper. I decided to ask the Nurse why she thinks there has been a decline in cervical screening among women in their 20’s. She said that many girls my age were among the first to receive the HPV vaccine so believe they don’t need to attend screening. but, it’s still very important to attend screening even if you’ve had the HPV vaccination.

The smear itself was over in under 2 minutes which was quicker than I imagined. My advice would be to take deep breaths which should help you relax and just talk to the Nurse if you are feeling nervous or uncomfortable (oh, and have a wee before the appointment!) Overall it was relatively painless (a little uncomfortable) and the results are back within 2-3 weeks if you receive an abnormal result you may be advised to re-book in 3 months’ time or be sent a further appointment to discuss the next steps. Luckily my results were clear.

So there are my tips for your first smear test. I promise you, if I can do it so can you!



Amber xxx