Words: Nicci Talbot
I received a letter a few weeks ago inviting me to book in for a smear test. Not sure where three years has gone but it’s time to do it again. So I phoned the doctor’s and was told that the first available appointment is in three months time. Having to wait that long for an important health test is ridiculous so I’ve changed surgeries and joined a new health centre in town, which is attached to Sussex Coast College. I only had to wait a week this time so I guess the surgery isn’t as over-subscribed.
I still find smear tests uncomfortable despite having had a baby and I automatically tense up and find it hard to relax. The best way for me to deal with it is to insert the speculum myself and then let the nurse do her thing. She was fine with this so I took my time with it and it was over and done with in a few seconds.
I explained that I was feeling a bit tense about having the smear as I’d felt sick and dizzy after using a menstrual cup earlier that week. My sample had some blood in it, as my period had stopped after just two days so I may have to do a repeat test if the lab can’t get clear results. The nurse explained how my vagina is shaped and the position of my cervix – it’s quite large and fleshy, so I was right to choose the larger Mooncup. A menstrual cup needs to be angled properly over the cervix and this can be tricky to get right so she told me to bring it in and she’d help me with it. Bless her.
I’ve also had backache so spoke to Liz Simpson, a physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health. She said that I haven’t damaged anything and the backache is a result of a bit of a shock to the system. My muscles have tightened up. I need to release the tension and the best way to do this is with heat, yoga and stretching. So, time to get the hot water bottle out and book myself in with our hands man for a deep tissue/hot stone fusion massage.
I’ve arranged to do a 1-2-1 Well Woman yoga session with Lisa Powell, which I will film so I can upload it and show you the moves. She said it’s likely that I have some emotional blockages in my pelvic area, which yoga will help me to release and we’ll do some exercises to tone up the perineum. This makes sense given my vaginismus history, painful gynaecological examinations and childbirthing. I felt queasy and sick last year after watching a close-up video of female ejaculation so there’s something going on upstairs that I need to process.
The good news is that I can retrain my body to accept a menstrual cup so we’ll do some work on this. She said that her first few tries were unsuccessful but she persevered and now whips it in and out without thinking about it. She recommended a book called The Female Pelvis by Blandine Calais-Germain, which will give me a greater understanding of the pelvic floor and how to look after it.
“There is one thing to remember, if the pelvic floor is under stress and tight then you need to focus on learning to relax it rather than trying to strengthen it even more. Once the muscles are relaxed you can start the strengthening exercises. A healthy muscle is one which is able to contract and also to relax,” she says. Good point and something we tend to forget as the emphasis is usually on strengthening and tightening the PC muscles.
“Well Woman yoga enhances our awareness of the many aspects of being female whether we are pregnant, post-natal, menopausal, or having difficulties with our fertility. Through a simple flowing movement, breathing exercises and deep relaxation we are able to let go of the layers of tension that are created throughout our lives. Sometimes these tensions are so deep-rooted we don’t even realise they exist. The yoga can help us unwind the base layers of tension and then the subtle layers will start to reveal themselves. This is done is a supportive environment where one can feel safe and secure as the process of unfolding takes place.”
How exciting. It will be a revelation not to dread having internal examinations. I’d also like to give the Mooncup another go when I feel more confident about it.
Here’s a yoga posture from Lisa that will help you relax the pelvic area and release any tension you are unconsciously holding:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet together. Let your thighs fall open to the side to open up the pelvic area. Prop some cushions beneath your legs to support them. Rest your hands on your stomach or pelvic area and just breathe and relax into it, observing any emotions that come up. If you need to cry go with it, as the body needs to release any trauma and tension it is holding.
It reminds me of the yoni massage session I had with Kavida Rei, which really helped me with the vaginismus. I guess if you keep practising this pose your body will become accustomed to feeling safe and relaxed in it. So the next time you have a gynaecological examination it won’t be half as traumatic, as this posture is very similar to the one you adopt when having a smear test.