Let’s be honest. No one enjoys getting a Pap smear. Or a pelvic exam. They can be uncomfortable at best, and at worst resemble a form of torture. Many women experience intense pelvic pain with any kind of penetration, and for this group of gals – just the thought of a speculum can ignite a fire of anxiety. But Pap smears and pelvic exams are very important. They help clinicians diagnose disorders, screen for cancer, and should be done in most patients (at least) every three years. This has women who experience pain with penetration wondering, “Can I be sedated for a pap smear?”
The short answer to this question is, yes, you can be sedated to get a pelvic exam and Pap smear. This is not common practice however, and usually only done when there is suspected clinical concern and a routine exam is not possible.
Very few gynecologist offices are practically equipped to “put you under” for a routine exam, so a pap with “sedation” usually requires a hospital or ambulatory surgical center.
If you are struggling with routine exams, there are many strategies one can employ to help get through the experience. First, you should find yourself a provider who is sensitive to women with pelvic pain. Let the office know to schedule extra time for your appointment, so the clinician can take her time. Request a smaller speculum (sometimes called a baby speculum) and see if it can be warmed prior to insertion. Some clinicians will allow you to insert the speculum yourself, if this helps ease the process. Other tips include mastering breathing techniques or using a meditation app during the exam to help keep you calm. Some women find it helpful to use an over-the-counter topical lidocaine gel on the vulvar area to decrease sensation. Other women may even need to ask their clinician for a small dose of anxiety medication to take before arriving to their appointment, if medically appropriate.
Lastly, if all the above applies to you, it may be that you have a condition called “vaginismus.” Vaginismus is a condition where there is involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted penetration. Fortunately, in every single case of vaginismus, there are treatment options. Here at Maze Women’s Health we specialize in treating both vaginismus and vulvodynia (chronic vulvar pain at the vaginal entrance). A large majority of the women we treat are successfully able to not only have a pelvic exam and Pap smear – but do so with confidence!
If the idea of a pelvic exam makes you weak in the knees, contact us for a free phone consultation. We are here to help you get the preventative care you need and deserve.