If you are squeamish about genital anatomical details then look away now…. This is a post all about my attempts to obtain a cervical smear – or rather the attempts of various nurses to fathom (quite literally) the depths of my somewhat unusual anatomy. OK. Now until I was with child (I have decided to use this rather archaic but lovely phrase instead of the ugly and functional ‘pregnant’) I had no idea of any anatomical irregularity. I always wondered vaguely why tampons didn’t seem to work on me, but apart from that I had no clue as to what I was really like. But to my surprise when I went for my first scan they discovered not one but two uteri! Not only that, but there was a septum (a wall of skin) which went right down almost to the outside, giving me two cervices and effectively two vaginas. That explained a lot. It meant that I needed caesarians in order to give birth (had I tried to give birth vaginally god alone knows what might have happened) – it also meant that the babies were likely to be small (they were, though not dangerously so: Holly was 6 lb 4 and Daniel about the same). And now came the problem: the smear tests. Now that I knew I had two cervices I knew I had to have two smears done, which meant twice the pain and double the difficulty.
If you don’t know how a smear is taken, here’s what they do. You have to lie flat and they insert an instrument called a speculum. Clearly having any sort of instrument inserted anywhere and particularly there, is not a comfortable experience either psychologically or physically, but when you have a septum separating the available space into two smaller spaces, it’s downright bloody painful. They insert the thing closed and then winch it open like expanding a pair of bellows; then they take a swab on a stick and swipe your nectar card (sorry, I mean your cervix) so they can check if you have cervical cancer.
Obviously this is a useful and necessary procedure but I hate it. This time the nurse at the GP’s decided I was in so much pain that she would refer me to the hospital where – or so I thought – I would have a different kind of procedure called a colposcopy. But then, when I got there and found I was going to have exactly the same procedure only (supposedly) with better equipment, and that only if that didn’t work would I be referred for a colposcopy, I was not best pleased. I also had to explain – as I always do – the exact nature of the abnormality referred to in my notes. Would it be so hard to put ‘double uterus with septum’ instead?
And so to work. First you have to put on a gown that ties up the back – designed to make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable – and then they make you put your legs right up in stirrups. And then begins the agony of having your insides penetrated and prised open. Thankfully the nurse was sympathetic and pleasant and the whole thing didn’t take too long, but let’s just say I’m pleased I don’t have to have another one done for five years.