A pap smear is a test carried out on cells from the cervix. It is often done to check for cervical cancer. In this article, six Nigerian women talk about getting pap smears. 

Jennifer, 32

I was 22 when I went for my first pap smear. I had been reading about it, so I knew what to expect. I was in the UK at the time. At the hospital, they gave me a pamphlet that described the procedure.

It was a seamless process although I was shy about opening my legs for the doctor. I did other tests too and later, they called to tell me the results.

Beatrice, 25

I was 24 when I decided I wanted to be more conscious of my sexual health. I wanted to get an IUD, a pap smear, and the HPV vaccine so I looked up hospitals and a lot of the recommendations pointed to Marie Stopes.

A lot of reviews said that the staff there were professional and did not judge their clients. I had been worried about what the people there would think of me so those comments I saw online helped me.

When I got to the clinic I was directed to the procedure room. I took off my clothes and lay on the bed. It was weird because when you lie on the bed, you spread your legs open. The doctor inserted a lubricated speculum into my vagina and took a sample of my cervix cells. To be honest, I didn’t feel anything other than the discomfort of the cold speculum. I had to even ask the doctor if she was done when she asked me to dress up.

No abnormal cells were found so it was okay for me to get the HPV Vaccine. It was a 7/10 experience — I would recommend it. 

Bon, 31

A few months ago, I went to a diagnostic centre for a pap smear because of a recurrent pelvic infection I kept having. They put that metal device inside me and man, it felt like I was being stabbed in the vagina. It felt sharp and cold. It’s one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had. I remember screaming and crying that day.

Oke, 24

In 2017, I wanted to get an IUD and a pap smear. I went to Marie Stopes, so it wasn’t such a bad experience — they are better than a lot of other places. But that speculum in my vagina felt like they were jacking a car. It also felt ridiculously cold, and the swab’s feeling on my cervix wasn’t comfortable at all. I couldn’t even get the IUD that day because my cervix wasn’t open enough. I had to come back when I was on my period. If they put a speculum in my vagina again, I can murder somebody.

Chinwe, 35 

Getting a Pap smear was a creepy experience for me, but it was something I had to do. It was so weird having a stranger insert a metal thing into my vagina. I was just glad it was a female nurse getting the sample.

Daphne, 26

It was a scary experience for me. In 2015, I noticed warts around my vagina area so I went to see a doctor. I thought I had an infection so I was too scared for my life to care about the cold speculum going into my vagina. In my head, I was like poke all you want, just tell me I’m not dying. It was a male doctor but he was nice and reassuring.

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