Top tips and advice

Let’s talk about preparing for your cervical screening, or 'smear test'. 
It’s natural to feel nervous about attending your cervical screening, so we’ve got some top tips from people who’ve been there.
 Find more information on how you can book your cervical screening
  • When you book your cervical screening appointment, consider asking for a doctor or nurse of a particular gender...or a particular doctor or nurse who you trust...if it’ll make you feel more comfortable
  • Ask for the first cervical screening appointment of the day if you feel uncomfortable in waiting rooms, and would like a shorter or quieter wait1
  • Check if you can have a longer appointment, so you have more time to process the information you’re given and ask questions1
  • Allow at least 30 minutes at your GP surgery or local sexual health clinic.While the cervical screening itself will only take a few minutes, you may spend some time waiting for your appointment, being directed to your room, or asking questions1
  • If it would help or you need assistance, it is worth asking if someone can come with you, whether your partner, friend, family member or someone else.1 They can be in the waiting room or examination room with you to offer support, or speak on your behalf to voice any worries1
  • Consider your choice of clothing so you are comfortable and only have to remove what you want to.1 While you do get a paper sheet to cover yourself, certain clothing items may help you feel more covered. You can keep them on during cervical screening and only take off your underwear1
  • Needing to urinate can cause you to clench or feel fidgety during cervical screening, so try to go to the toilet before it begins2
  • Ask for a smaller speculum.1 Speculums come in different sizes and if you find the size offered too uncomfortable, you can try another size1
  • Put the speculum in yourself.1 You may feel more comfortable and relaxed doing it yourself, or if you have a partner with you, asking them to do it1
  • You may begin to clench your pelvic muscles if you’re anticipating the speculum being inserted, which can potentially make the cervical screening more uncomfortable.1 Think of something that will help to distract you during the cervical screening appointment1
  • Control your breathing – try taking in a breath for four seconds, and breathing out for eight.2 It’ll potentially help your body and mind relax2
  • Remember, you’re always in control. Ask your nurse or doctor to talk you through what’s happening if you feel that’ll help,2 or if you’re feeling discomfort, request the speculum to be inserted more slowly2 or to change position 
  • Most people can continue their day as usual after cervical screening.3 You may experience some light bleeding (spotting) for a day after the examination, so it can be useful to wear a sanitary pad or panty-liner3
  • While pain killers are not generally required, some people report mild discomfort for a few hours after having their cervical screening.2 If that’s you, feel free to take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel that would help2
  • As you wait for your cervical screening results, or when you get them, you can get in touch with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, who will be able to provide you with any support you might need  

For further information and resources



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1. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Our cervical screening tips. Available at:  Last accessed: October 2022

2. The Gynae Centre. 8 tips for making your smear test more comfortable. Available at: Last accessed: October 2022

3. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. What happens at cervical screening? Available at: Last accessed: October 2022