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Extremely Painful Pap Smear

Two weeks ago I had my first pap smear in many years. It was incredibly painful: I felt like I was being torn apart. The doctor didn't understand that it was way beyond painful when I started asking him to stop, and I ended up yelling. I'm 40 and I'm not a virgin, but I haven't had sex in a while. When I look on the Internet, I see a bunch of women complaining about the pain and a bunch of (untrained?) doctors claiming it shouldn't be painful. I'm never going to get a pap smear again unless I have reason to believe something is seriously wrong. Now two weeks later I can still feel it. It's uncomfortable when I sit down. I wonder if I got an infection from the speculum, but I don't want to go back to the doctor to find out. Is there a way to raise awareness among doctors about how seriously traumatic that level of pain is? I might as well have been raped in the doctor's office.
19 Responses
Avatar universal
I've had a few bad pap smears - some led to bleeding for several days.  Guess what.  They were all done by male doctors.  I decided to start seeing a female doctor and I haven't had a problem since.  Not all male doctors are rough during pap smears, but they can't possibly know how it feels to us (just like we have no real perception of what it would feel like if we kicked them in the groin after said painful pap smear).  Not all female doctors are gentle, but since they have the same parts we do, they inherently have an idea of how a pap smear feels and tend to be a bit gentler.  I would seek out a different doctor - no matter what their gender.  And when it comes time for a pap smear, let them know you've been hurt by paps in the past.  You shouldn't have to have to go through that much pain.
Avatar universal
I think you should go to a different doctor and by no means don't neglect to take your pap smear test every year. It's something us women owe to ourselves if we wanna stay healthy. Regarding the pain, i've had 3 pap tests since i became sexually active all of them where a bit painful but not even close to what you describe. I also had a very small amount of blood the next 1-2 days but my doctor said it's normal. The doctor you visited -excuse my language- is an insensitive moron. Ask your friends what gyn they are seeing and how they like them and maybe choose a woman gyn the next time. Btw you should definately get examined cause an infection from the speculum is rather possible. Hope you feel better soon!
Avatar universal
For some women pap tests are indeed painful. My last pap test was a nightmare. I experienced a sharp, burning, stinging sensation it was a 10 on the pain scale. It literally felt like a hot knife was being jammed inside me. I screamed the pain was so intolerable. The doctor continued on despite this and I screamed again and the doctor mumbled something about using a smaller speculum. She took out the first one and inserted the smaller one and said , "The cervix must be hiding today." I felt like I was going to vomit. Finally she was finished and said , " I'm sorry I hurt you." She seemed almost embarassed and hurriedly left the room. I sat there unable to move, shaking uncontrolably and retching. After a few minutes I got up and got dressed then left the exam room. I vowed I would never go through that kind of TORTURE again. Now after my traumatic experience do you think I'm ever going to TRUST a doctor to give me a pap test again?!!! The doctor wasn't being rough so it wouldn't matter which doctor did the test.I REFUSE to be put through such agony again, the pain I experienced was way above my pain threshhold. Death is preferable than some things.I threw away the letter last year informing me of my yearly physical/pap being due. There are apparently many more women out there than the clueless doctors realize that experience excruciatingly painful pap tests yet little is being done about it.
Avatar universal
Just remember you are not alone. There are others who have experienced what you have. If you feel you must go through with it find a female doctor as they tend to be less intimidating. Tell her everything and if you don't feel comfortable with her response/attitude you can always leave.
Avatar universal
Maybe your cervix is almost closed?  I never used to have painful pap smears but over the last few years, they've been as painful as you describe.  The last doctor noticed my cervix was nearly closed - hence why the extreme pain.  The condition is called Cervical Stenosis. Cervical Stenosis can occur after menopause or if one has surgery such as a cone biopsy. There could be other reasons which could cause Cervical Stenosis.  I have read on the web (info from a doctor) that not all doctors are aware of cervixes closing, hence why some doctors can't (or don't believe) women can experience excruiating pain from a pap smear!
Avatar universal
Meant to reply to your post, not the other ...

Maybe your cervix is almost closed?  I never used to have painful pap smears but over the last few years, they've been as painful as you describe.  The last doctor noticed my cervix was nearly closed - hence why the extreme pain.  The condition is called Cervical Stenosis. Cervical Stenosis can occur after menopause or if one has surgery such as a cone biopsy. There could be other reasons which could cause Cervical Stenosis.  I have read on the web (info from a doctor) that not all doctors are aware of cervixes closing, hence why some doctors can't (or don't believe) women can experience excruiating pain from a pap smear
Avatar universal
Hi, I have always had pap smears and had no problems, but this last one was so painful I screamed and felt like I was being ripped apart. I think I have been going through the menopause for a year or two. I say think because (at least where I live) there is no test you can take and only internet advice. Have not had a period for over a year and have occassional hot flashes, not too bad. Have had problems with sex for about a year as was so painful. Just thought it was because we didn't have it as much as before. But after this recent pap smear I have been googling and found it could be cervical atrophy, cervical closing or cancer!! Am now petrified and awaiting results. The doctor (female) was unsupportive, rough, and gave a throw away comment that the post smear bleeding might be cancer! The support we get is so poor and no reassurance or explanation. I am so terrified and found it so painful I am wondering if I can have elective surgery and have a full hysterectomy so I don't have to have a smear test again and totally reduce chances of reproductive organ cancer to zero.....
1 Comments
I just had the worst pap smear of my life.  I am glad I am not alone, however feel horrible for all of us who have experienced this.  I won't have another one ever again.  I am 50 and have not been sexually active for awhile.  I was told that my cervix was way back there in atrophy.  I was screaming in pain and begged her to stop but she wouldn't.  I feel there has to be a less barbaric way to do this procedure.
Avatar universal
I am wondering if anesthesia can be requested???? Mine was unbelievably painful.... I did not let the dr go any further!
3 Comments
I tried that, she said no. There's not. But I read online you can take Advil or ibuprofen (basically the same thing as Aleve, etc.,) an hour or so before your appointment. I'm going to try that. Maybe you should too. She barely got it in me, and I was screaming from pain. I'm a 24 year old virgin. She said I'd feel some pressure, but I shouldn't feel any pain. Guess what? I had pain. She also said it's going to feel like it's pressing against my vaginal wall, but it's not. I seriously can't stand it. We tried 3 times. I had my first paps smear 2 days ago. We even tried having her put the speculum in without telling me, and that failed. I really need some help. For those who said they had good paps smears, how did you do it? Because i've done everything to try and relax, and that didn't work. Does anyone have some advice for me?
It's not supposed to be so painful that anesthesia is needed.  You might feel pressure and a bit of discomfort but it should be bearable.  They often put a poster above the table and women can look at that and day dream (go to their happy place) for the couple of minutes it takes for the exam.  What you experienced is not  normal.  It sounds like you were exceptionally tense.  I'd talk to her about something, not anesthesia, for the moment.  Maybe something like valium if you have someone to drive you to and from the appointment.  But this is a lot in terms of pain and not typical or common.  Once, I had pain, but that was because they put the speculum in and when they used the screw to open it, it caught my skin and they pulled it out that way (with my skin attached).  ya, that hurt.  Anyway, I'd try to figure out how to relax as I hope this doesn't carry over to when you have sex.  You don't want this pain when something enters your vagina.  good luck
Thanks. I really don't know what to do. I tried taking a deep breath, doing anything I could to get through it, but I just couldn't.
Avatar universal
I'm 19 & I just had my first Pap smear test done today... Well they tried. I'm sexually active & this was one of those things that my mom and the dr felt was necessary to do. So I tried. As she was explaining to me and showing me in details what she was going to do I knew in my mind and I kept telling myself I can't do this. But I had to try. I couldn't get comfortable. And just like I figured it would be it was so painful. It was pure agony. I just started bawling like a baby and I had to get up and basically run out of the Drs office. And I said I'm never coming back. My mom and the Drs are trying to get me to go back when I'm ready but idk if I will because I'm not doing that to myself again. Does a lot of women have this problem? I been reading online and I can relate to a lot of these comments talking about how horrible of a experience this exam has been for ladies. I just need someone to talk to about this. I couldn't even let the dr finish or get a sample of anything. I physically couldn't do it. It was like a knife was being jammed up me and I felt pinching and it was just God awful. I just don't want to have to go thru that or anything like that again... Anyone have any advice? Pls & thanks!
Avatar universal
Just had my first pap smear today and it was so painful. My doctor told me it was because my cervix is farther back than most and to the side as well which meant she had to maneuver the speculum and it hurt so bad. Glad to hear I am not the only one who has experienced a painful pap considering that most websites talk about how they are "painless" and just "mildly uncomfortable". Someone warned me to take Tylenol beforehand but it didn't help and I was so nervous there was no way for me to untense my muscles. Wish there was a solution for us women who have experienced painful paps.
Avatar universal
Just had my first pap smear today and it was so painful. My doctor told me it was because my cervix is farther back than most and to the side as well which meant she had to maneuver the speculum and it hurt so bad. Glad to hear I am not the only one who has experienced a painful pap considering that most websites talk about how they are "painless" and just "mildly uncomfortable". Someone warned me to take Tylenol beforehand but it didn't help and I was so nervous there was no way for me to untense my muscles. Wish there was a solution for us women who have experienced painful paps.
Avatar universal
im 29 weeks pregnant and yesterday i had my first pap smear it was so painful i cried i felt emotionally and physically hurt i told the doc it hurt but she didint do anything! ! i got traumatize never want to expirance that in my life time ever again! it was super horible
Avatar universal
I am 62 and I had a pap smear 3 weeks ago. My primary doctor did it during annual examination. It was uncomfortable and a little bit painful during the test and still I feel discomfort. I am wondering if the doctor could do something wrong, she is not gynecologist and do not practice such things daily? Should I go to a gynecologist for a follow up?
Avatar universal
I had never had a problem with having a pap test until after I went through menopause.  Each time I had one after I was post-menopausal, the pain was worse until the last time I had one it hurt so bad I almost screamed.  Then the results came back that they didn't have enough of a sample and I would have to have it re-done.  Needless to say, I didn't go to have it re-done.  My doctor's office has changed to a new owner and new doctor and I was told that I should have one.  I went in to have it, but it was so painful that the doctor stopped and said she was not going to torture me.  She said she would send me to a GYN because they can do it a different way.  I haven't tried that yet, but I'm scared to let them do anything "down there."
1 Comments
I went for a physical to my GP and they asked if I needed a pap. I was overdue and I figured it save me a trip to GYN. My last pap was slightly painful but this time I nearly flew off the table screaming!  I am now post menopausal and still need to get this done but can't even think about it. Dr suggested 4 motrin and a zanax just before I go to my GYN. Anyone try this?
Avatar universal
Hi,me too we can talk?
Avatar universal
I'm so sick of doctors saying that pap smears shouldn't be painful. They are horrendously painful for me. I hurt my back from tensing up so bad during my last pap smear. I had to see a chiropractor and go through physical therapy for weeks after. It was truly a horrible experience. I dread and hate pap smears with a tremendous passion that I can hardly describe.
2 Comments
I am tired of suffering through pap smears.  Ever since I went through menopause they have been unbearable.  I never used to have this much pain.  I screamed out today during my appt. and the doctor said I scared her(!).  But she did explain post menopausal smears can be painful.  Well I'm not having another one any time soon, that's for sure.
Had same experience twice. Test was not possible. Still feeling hurt How Can I lessen my pain?Itried getting it done today again.
Avatar universal
I too had a really painful experience during a recent pap spear. I was told that it gets more painful as you get older.. I never had any problems with this when I was younger. At this point I really font know if I would go through this again without a strong painkiller..
Avatar universal
Im 22 tried to have my first pap smear and it was so painful I cried, and felt like I was being ripped ( I wasnt just hurt so bad ) They stopped. Im not and have never been sexually active. I just could not relax. When a doctor tells your to relax and they just keep shoving the thing in it does not help you relax.
1 Comments
I agree. I'm also a virgin, and I'm 24. I had mine done 2 days ago well attempted to. I hated it. Gonna again in 2 months. We tried 3 times that day, but i just couldn't do it. She barely got in it before I had to have her take it out. I tried everything I could. Even when I wasn't tense it hurt. Then she did that finger thing, to check for things on my ovaries, and I hated that also. She was able to do that, but it hurt so bad. I just wanted her to stop. About 5 minutes later she was done with that. Not only will I have to attempt the paps smear again, I'll have to get blood drawn, and I'm deathly afraid of needles.
Avatar universal
I am so sorry for you but I can definitely relate.   I'm much older than you and post menopausal, so take that for what it's worth.  I had pap smears for many years with my former gynecologist and not once did I have any discomfort or pain.    When I started with a different gynecologist a few years ago (we had moved) I fully expected no issues...but shock of shocks, had an excrutiatingly painful experience.  Like you, I wasn't going to return...especially since I had never had an abnormal result and no history of ovarian cancer in my family.  But, my PCP urged me to try again.  This time, I told both the nurse and same gynecologist before anything started that the last one was painful and I was very apprehensive.  It was somewhat better and they were truly trying to be more careful --- but it was still uncomfortable.   Fast forward to yesterday, where I had my first visit to another new gynecologist (in the same practice; the last one I was seeing recently went on extended leave).  This was a female, so I expected a much kinder, gentler understanding and tolerable experience.  WRONG!  Just before we started, I told her and the PA student who was "observing" about the last two painful exams.  The doctor basically ignored me; went full speed ahead (including a rectal probe -- which she didn't tell me she was going to do and had NEVER been done by any other gynecologist I've been to) and it was awful.  I told her very vocally that it was painful and uncomfortable.   She then proceeded to tell me that I had a lot of internal dryness and actually said in front of said PA, "It's dry as a bone in there".  Not only a painful experience, but a humiliating one as well.  The gyno also said, "I have very small hands", basically implying that I was the problem, not her.  She was essentially dismissing the pain and ignoring how awful this was for me.     I share this because I was left with the same exact feeling you had -- one of having been violated, and in my case, it was by a female physician! What I did learn (if she's right about it) is that apparently, severe dryness can make the exam very painful, especially in post menopausal women.   I have to say that I'm exactly where you are right now:  I will not have another test or exam, especially with no history of abnormal results or family incidence of ovarian cancer.   The only other suggestion I can offer as other women have shared is to request some type of medication before the exam -- or self medicate with something to relax you.  You can also request that they use smaller speculums (they do exist) -- but that might not help much.  In any case, you're not alone, and this is not in any way your fault.  A truly caring doctor will be understanding and try to help. Hold out to find one.   I wish you well and all good health.
1 Comments
Wow, this is a really impactful post!  Thank you for sharing your information. That is beyond maddening that you'd be left to just feel bad and uncomfortable during your pelvic rather than being shown any empathy or concern.  Whether it has to do with vaginal dryness post menopause or not, that doesn't discount that it was bad for you. I'd consider finding a new practice all together.  If you are in a new area, I found asking around to friends for recommendations of practices to go to can be helpful.  You get first hand experience of others if they are gentle, kind, etc. Doctors need to treat patients like they have a choice of where to go . . .  you know?  Like  customer.  Now, I have an incredible fear of mammograms.  I had a bad one over 10 years ago that led to a biopsy and didn't have cancer but it has left me with incredible anxiety over getting this done.  I avoided it and didn't do it.  My kind primary care doctor had  me make an appointment to get it done while in her office (so I couldn't blow it off) and then prescribed a Xanax to take for it.  I didn't actually take the Xanax for the  mammo (which turned out normal, yay!!) but it felt so refreshing to have a doctor who 'got me' and understood that it was HARD for me.  I felt heard!!  You weren't heard and that stinks. Even if they had to still give you the uncomfortable exam, to feel like they cared that you were uncomfortable would have been nice!!!  
I'm in the phase of menopause starting.  No idea how long this will take but it is good to understand that pap smears may get very uncomfortable after.  Does lubrication they provide not help?  As in, can't artificial lubrication make a difference or no?  Ugh.
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