Think of the anxiety you experience when starting a new job or on the first day of school. Recall your nerves the first time you drove a car on the highway. Combine all three and you near the level of apprehension many women feel when going to their first cervical exam. In reality, it is an everyday procedure that is a critical preventative health measure.
“I had looked it up on the Internet and I was scared it was going to hurt,” said Carla, a Planned Parenthood patient in St. Paul. “But it was the least traumatic thing. My doctor was so nice and she explained everything that was going to happen. She did it so quickly; I didn’t even know she was done!”
Amanda, from North Dakota, was too embarrassed as a teenager to ask her single father about birth control (and her younger brother was certainly no help). A friend directed her to Planned Parenthood, where Amanda received a full exam despite not having health insurance.
“When you’re young, you’re vulnerable and you don’t know what’s going on,” Amanda recalls. “I remember going in the first time for a pelvic exam and the doctor making me feel so comfortable. I was so deathly afraid of going in there, but honestly it couldn’t have been better.”
Women should have routine Pap tests every 3 years starting at age 21. Seeking out a medical center where the staff makes you feel comfortable and safe will help relieve that natural apprehension.
Carla now counsels younger women to seek out a Planned Parenthood clinic and to relax before their exam. She says, “They’re safe, they’re really gentle, and they’re really kind, so you don’t have to worry.”
MORIAH P., COMMUNICATIONS INTERN