Colposcopy as someone with a gynaecology phobia

Hi,

I had a colposcopy done 2 days ago, and as someone who has a severe gynaecology phobia I thought I would share my experience as I’m sure there are other ladies in the same boat as myself, and I struggled to find anything reassuring online beforehand!

Bit of background first off - I think my phobia stemmed from a failed attempt at a coil fitting when I was 18, I felt traumatised and like my body wasn’t my own which is the only way I can describe it, I didn’t feel I could talk about it and thought I should ‘just get on with it’, and thought I’d emotionally dealt with it in time until the point of starting having my smears which proved very distressing. I hyperventilate, panic, and find them painful (partly due to panicking and tensing). On my first smear in 2019, the nurse was a little cold which only added to my anxiety. Finally plucked up the courage for my second one in September, and luckily the nurse I had was lovely and really patient.

My results came in October stating I am hpv positive with low grade dyskarosis and will be referred for a colposcopy. This struck terror in me, as someone who’s scared of even smears, the idea of something more which takes longer seemed an impossible task. I do suffer with general and health anxiety as well, which is mostly under control but this set it off again. I first saw the results on my nhs app and hoped it was wrong, when the letter arrived a few days later I had a panic attack and was tearful for days. Tried putting it out my mind until my appointment date came. My panic wasn’t so much about the results or implications of these, but the procedure itself.

Once I had my appointment date, I ended up calling the hospital, they were lovely and got one a nurse to ring me and talk me through the procedure. This didn’t stop my fear, but eased the anxiety and made me feel like I was in safe hands with good people. They also told me the name of the nurse who would be doing it which felt more human.

At the appointment itself I was crying before getting undressed (I knew this would be the case). There was the nurse who was carrying out the procedure and another nurse supporting who was there to assist her and look after me. They were both lovely, made me feel like I wasn’t abnormal and reassured me there’s nothing wrong with me for feeling the way I do. This helped as I’ve honestly felt like I’m being hysterical, but I guess some people are scared of needles, dentists etc, I’m scared of gynaecology.

They offered me gas and air which I took (that was an experience in itself, got the giggles and relaxed me, and they laughed along with me and made me feel really at ease). It was still scary and not nice as someone with my fears, BUT I did it, which I didn’t think I could. It was slightly painful but not unbearable, I also had a punch biopsy which took a second and felt immediately like bad period pain but settled down fast. It took her a few minutes to stop me bleeding after, but she did a fantastic job of stopping this and keeping me calm.

They allowed me time to gather myself as I was still very tearful, and they sat me down afterwards and made me a cup of tea and asked me to stay for 30 mins to make sure I was ok as I’d had a lot of gas and air (this wore off very fast so don’t worry about unpleasant side effects if offered).

Fast forward 2 days later. On the day of it, it stung a little when peeing (possibly due to the liquids they use as they sting a little when applied too). I’ve got some brownish discharge but this is light and intermittent. The cramping has more or less eased. I still have a little bit of soreness in my vagina, which I would imagine is due to the punch biopsy as it’s a little cut which is in a weird and sensitive area! Emotionally I have felt weird tbh, and still feel a little disconnected with my body, but it’s slowly passing and I’m starting to know to expect that feeling and tolerate it. I’ve had no issues getting on with my day as normal which is good as a distraction from those feelings, and I bought myself a couple of books to completely lose myself so that I was able to sit and rest a little too.

I should get the results from my biopsy back within 6 weeks, hopefully nothing more needs doing as she said things looked mostly normal and any changes are mild, but she’s put on my notes that if I do need treatment for cell removal I will be put under general anaesthetic due to how traumatic it is for me.

Sorry for the super long post, but if I can reassure any women who have a similar phobia to me that they can do this, then I would like to be able to do that. I honestly spent weeks convinced I couldn’t but the nurses are lovely, and there is ways to tailor it to suit you as they know it’s not a one size fits all kinda thing. You’ll feel so proud of yourself after too. If anyone wants to chat feel free :blush::heart:

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Hi, i totally get how u feel. Went through same anxiety and worry. Having HPV most of my life i knew i would always be high risk. Been having yearly smears for about 5 years but cells had always been normal until the last one. Which still showed the presence of HPV but this time borderline cell changes which as you know causedme instant panic. The letter stated i would have to go for a colopscopy at the hospital. Spent 6 weeks dreaming of this procedure over and over again. Fearing all sorts. The fact that like you i have always found it hard to relax with a normal smear so you tense up and the pain is horrid. Luckily my sister in law offered to take me to my hospital appointment i was so scared. Hardly slept the night before. Even though it was a male doctor, there were 2 lovely female nurses there one to support me and the other to assist the doctor.its amazing how relaxed i felt as she kept me talking. It was not painful and was over quicker than i thought it would be. Luckily he yold me there and then cells were fine, no treatment needed and can go back to 3 yearly smears now. Can explain my relief. You will be fine. Its all precautionary measures.

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Hi there

I was diagnosed 5 years ago and was so anxious about the colonoscopy they put me to sleep :zzz: yay. I did have cancer but now am coming up to my 5 year sign off so cross fingers. The phobia never went away and I could not use the dilators so now my lady bits are completely closed up and instead of physical examinations I have MRIs. This phobia is real girls. I never had babies because of it and smears were hit and miss. God knows how I ever had sex! I wish I had sought therapy as in the end it all backfired on me and I did end up with cervical cancer. The guilt and self loathing was awful and I will have to live with this forever. You are not alone but Doctors will always help. Xxx

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Thanks so much for posting your tale, it’s good to hear the reality of having a colposcopy. I have one coming up after a smear test found cell changes. Like you I find smear tests distressing and painful, and one had to be abandoned because it hurt too much. When my colposcopy appointment came through I rang up the hospital, explained my situation anxiety and the doc who is going to be doing the procedure rang me back. She has arranged for my procedure to be done under general anaesthetic. Wish me luck please! Thank you and I do hope your results come back normal x

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It’s weirdly reassuring to read about other people having panic attacks around this. For me, I have a history of sexual assault and for some reason pelvic exams trigger some weird extreme trauma response…sooo, I didn’t. I tried. I’d make appointments and even get as close as the parking lot, where id just sit and cry and not go in. Just making an appointment would make me spiral out of control into weeks of depression. It’s so stupid. Something about feeling helpless in the stirrups, even knowing that I’m being actively proactive and choosing to be there, just makes me break down. I hate it.

I’m also horribly embarrassed (and furious at myself and the circumstances around why) that my first pelvic exam was in the hospital a month ago, when I went to the ER and couldn’t stop bleeding. I was given Ativan and the resident was very helpful (although the dr sent me home with “fibroids” and I ended up back in the ER 3 days later with extreme vaginal hemorrhaging and immediate diagnosis from the gyno team there which led to my diagnosis).

Thankfully the oncology team at the cancer center have also been incredibly supportive and walked me through my pelvic exams like yours did too, and have reassured me that this is sadly common with gynaecological cancers. They’ve given me a prescription of fast acting Ativan to bring with me to appointments. I’m dreading brachytherapy though, and the idea of being drugged though it both reassures and terrifies me.

Part of me is really wanting to go to therapy and get help dealing with this fear but the other part of me is just so angry that I should have to waste time thinking about all of these old horrible issues when I just want to focus on cure and loving the people around me.

I’d love to connect with others who’ve also dealt or are dealing with this. It’s all so much, and then to have anxiety around appointments too. Theres a lot of big feelings going on.

So, sorry for the dump. It’s just also been on my mind all day, and I’m sending hugs and healing thoughts to you.

.lindsey

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Thanks for your replies ladies. I’m glad this post has been helpful for a few of you with similar fears to mine. There are a couple of other things that I think add to my fear and being triggered other than just the failed coil fitting, and I’m debating getting some therapy to deal with these issues because I can’t deal with feeling like I did every time I need a gynaecology appointment!

I have unfortunately had a bit of a nightmare week since my procedure, I ended up with a UTI and really bad thrush, and was messed around a little bit given way too strong antibiotics which had bad side effects so they got changed, then the wrong thrush treatment, so was in a lot of pain, but hopefully I’m getting there now. Still a little sore but I guess everything needs to settle down as I would’ve still been recovering from the punch biopsy when I started with all that! But we’ll see.

In terms of the procedure itself I seem to have healed okay, I’ve kept an eye out for any infections in that respect and fortunately I’ve had no nasty discharge or smells or anything which is what drs warned me to look for. But I’ll keep you all updated, hopefully I’m on the mend from here :blush: I’m praying my results come back that I don’t need an

Best of luck and kind thoughts to the ladies with upcoming procedures :heart:

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I’m sorry to hear you are struggling also, thank you for sharing. I’m glad they’ve arranged for you to have it under general anaesthetic - gas and air helped for sure but was still difficult! I’ve had a bad UTI and thrush all week which I’m pretty sure is due to being so irritated ‘down there’ after and I wonder if how tense I was has contributed to that.
You’ve got this and can do it, it’s scary and I understand the run up to it is gonna be scary especially and it’s hard to keep your mind off it, but please try to do things you enjoy in the run up to it and take care of yourself, feel whatever you need to feel and talk to people if needed, if anything else I’m sure myself and ladies on this thread will listen :blush: best of luck with everything and thank you - I’ll keep you all updated when I get results x

Thanks for your message and for sharing, and don’t apologise, I think it’s helpful to get your feelings out somewhere non judgemental and where people are discussing similar fears.

I’m sorry you’ve gone through that, and the way it’s affected you. I’m also really sorry to hear about your diagnosis, though I’m pleased to hear you have a treatment plan in place and what sounds like a caring and supportive medical team around you who are helping you as best of possible. I do also have a pretty recent history of sexual assault which I didn’t mention on my initial post, along with the fear that was already there after the failed coil fitting. So the being out of control feeling during medical exams makes complete sense - maybe a bit TMI but my sex life wasn’t affected by past trauma which i think is because I’m in control and it’s not painful or uncomfortable, whereas a medical exam is something you don’t want to do and is unpleasant at best therefore feels pretty violating, so which is perhaps where the out of control feelings come from.

Although I understand the phobia and trauma, I can’t imagine what you’re going through in terms of the diagnosis and treatment you’re requiring, but I’m sending you the best of wishes for your recovery.

I think I am going to look into some therapy once I’m feeling better (ended up with a horrible UTI and very painful thrush after the colposcopy and punch biopsy, just finished my antibiotics and thrush tablets so waiting to hopefully feel 100% after that and resting up). But being unwell this past week afterwards has made it worse cos it’s felt like everything my body is doing is reminding me of what’s been done and bringing the trauma back over and over, and I think it’s something I need some help with because I don’t want to feel this bad any time a medical procedure is needed. Whether you choose to or not is a completely personal choice but whatever you do I wish you the best with :heart:

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Hi Trudyboo
I do hope you are in the UK as i would absolutely prefer a general anaesthetic for my upcoming colposcopy!
My last smear was excruciatingly painful and a few years ago i had a hysteroscopy which was so uncomfortable…despite the local anaesthetic…i started uncontrollably shaking afterwards due to the shock and had to.lie down and be monitored for over 30 mins !

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I am in the UK. I asked the consultant if I could be put to sleep and he agreed immediately. Good luck and if you want any moral support give me a shout x

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Hi there
Thank you so much for your reply…i shall let you know what they say about having a GA.
I feel much more reassured now x

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Good girl …. Be firm with them . I’m here if you want moral support or anything xx

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Thank you so much for all your support, ladies.

I retired on ill health at the end of summer so want to rekax in the autumn of my life

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Trudyboo,

Plus i have osteoarthritis in both knees so the anticipation of pain in them whilst bent on those padded things just adds yo my anxiety.

I have diabetes and pernicious anaemia amongst other health issues so know my immune system is already compromised.

Three years ago i had pre cancerous cells on my nose which were burnt off. Does this make CC more likely, do you think?

Sorry to natter on.

I’m in the uk, and once my consultant saw how anxious I was and how much pain I was in when they tried to look at my bits they booked me in for a colposcopy under ga straight away x

OldRed

Thank you for that. Gives me the confidence
to ask.

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Hi … sorry I haven’t been on here and I don’t get notifications on here not sure why. I’m not a Doctor but I think your two experiences are not linked. CC is related to HPV. I hope you are doing well.

Jackie

Hi TrudyBoo

I finally got appointment through to have the colposcopy… 16 weeks since initial letter.

The lady who finally answered was rather brusque. I explained that i would prefer a GA as my body went into some kind of shock after a hysteroscopy a couple of years ago. She went to check, came back, said that was fine and said i just needed to fill forms in on the day.
She never mentioned if i have to fast …my appointment is at 3.30pm x

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Hi Daisylife

How did your colposcopy under GA go?

I’m having mine carried out the same way on 3rd April.

Can you tell me exactly what happens so I’m prepared, please?

Thank you

Hi ladies

Went to hospital this afternoon, thinking it was to sign forms etc as i had requested colposcopy under GA. When i got there, the colposcopist and nurse presumed i was there to have it done in their room, there and then !
I was a bit shocked and unprepared but they reassured me i could stop anytime and that they’d suggest an appointment for a GA if their findings today warranted further investigations.
They put me completely at ease and it was, as some of you have said, far less painful than a smear and the only real uncomfortable bit was when they put the solution on my cervix.
25 minutes and it was over…i was yapping away to them during it, telling them about the Children’s book I’ve just had published etc.
Anyway, colposcopist said all looked fine, no need for biopsies and she said I’ll need to go back in a year for a check up.
I was so relieved.
Thank you all for your support, ladies. Means such a lot
And i wish equally good outcomes for you all x

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