I always wondered what the equivalent of a Man Cave would be for women? Do we have one? I’m calling it “Lady Cave”. It both hints to a space where women can have conversations about womanly stuff, and lady cave of course hints to our feminine part, which will be talked about a lot on this series.
The name seems fitting doesn’t it? Lady Cave- I like it, and we’re starting that series today!
Based on what I have gone through recently, I polled on my Instagram stories as to whether a pap test/ women’s health related post was something women wanted to read about, and the response was a big, unanimous, YES!
As women, we should be talking about this more. We all get pap tests done. Abnormal result are common, and yet, I realized I didn’t have much knowledge on what to expect when one gets an abnormal result. And I wasn’t alone – after I ran the Instagram poll, a few women messaged me saying they would like to know more, or some had experienced the same and had felt unprepared because of lack of conversation about it. I hope sharing my experience opens up a dialogue that can be helpful to at least one of you.
At the beginning of this year, my husband and I decided we wanted a more permanent method of contraception. I must admit, for the first year of my son’s life, contraception wasn’t really a priority. First of all, I didn’t have much energy in that first year to have sex anyways, ha! Second of all, as a mom of two under two for a while, making the time for anything, let alone making time to go to the doctor for birth control, seemed impossible. After a year of condoms, timing and “pulling out”, it was time to start looking at something more permanent and reliable.
Mothers have sex. Crazy right? [sarcasm]. This is a subject I also feel we don’t talk enough about. In becoming a mom, we automatically inherit a sort of virginal quality (ironically) and it’s hard to think of nurturing mothers as sexual beings – but these roles coexist. As women, and should honor that we may have sexual desires too, and that’s a good thing – but I digress.
I booked a doctors appointment, and as common practice before getting any form of contraception, I had a pap test done. The doctor did the swab, and I was done.
The experience I just described is where the process ends for most women after a Pap test. For others, an abnormal pap result will be received, which isn’t immediately bad news, it just requires more follow up.
What happens when you get an abnormal pap test result?
Depending on the severity of the abnormal cells found on your pap test, monitoring may be all that’s needed, or it may require treatment.
For a low grade of abnormal cells, a pap test every 6 months for one to two years will be recommend, and this is very common. The body will usually get rid of these cells on it’s own, and the tests are for monitoring.
For a higher grade of abnormal cells, a colposcopy will be recommended for further examination.
What is a colposcopy?
Anytime one hears complicated names in doctor appointments, things can start to seem a little scary, but after some research, turns out colposcopies are a lot more common than spoken about. It is basically a more thorough pap test/ examination of the cervix using a colposcope (a fancy microscope).
What to expect?
I arrived to the colposcopy clinic and was taken to a room to change. I had to remove everything waist down and put on a gown. I watched a video explaining the colposcopy procedure, and then spoke to nurse for further explanation. Once in the room where the procedure would take place, you lie on a bed the same way you would for a pap test, a speculum is inserted by the doctor, and the colposcope is positioned in place. My cervix area was dyed with a solution that tints normal and abnormal cells differently, and a small biopsy was taken for testing. A cream like solution was added to the area to reduce any bleeding afterwards , and that was it. The whole procedure took about 5 minutes, and I had very minor cramping afterwards. I left the clinic with a follow up appointment in 6 months time.
For most, a 6 month follow up is all that is required after the colposcopy procedure, with monitoring every 6 months for a year.
For others, like me, further treatment was required.
A week after my colposcopy appointment, I got a call saying that the biopsy sample taken during the colposcopy showed a high level of abnormal cells, and I required a Leep procedure.
What is a Leep procedure?
A Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (Leep) is a type of cone biopsy. The Leep tool removes parts of the cervix that have abnormal cells.
What to expect?
Similar to the colposcopy appointment, I arrived to the clinic, was taken to a room to change, removed everything waist down and put a gown on. The procedure was explained by a nurse, and I was then taken into the room for the procedure. Once I was lying down, a ground patch was placed on my leg which is required for any electro surgery. A colposcope was used to view the area, and local anesthesia was administered through injection right onto the cervix; it felt like tiny little cramps. I experienced a few of the symptoms they said the anesthesia would cause, but they passed almost immediately. The cervix area was dyed so that normal cells showed differently to the abnormal ones, and then with the Leep tool, part of the cervix was removed. Once the cut was done, it was cauterized to stop the bleeding. I felt minor discomfort and no pain. The entire procedure took less than 10 minutes.
This is an outpatient surgery, and you are able to leave the hospital after your procedure. You do required a ride home, and have to take the day off work. A follow up appointment will be scheduled before you leave the hospital.
Once the anesthesia passed, I did feel cramp like pains, and some burning sensation which I assume was from the cauterizing. I took tylenol and the discomfort quickly passed. I bled for a few days afterwards, but the pain and discomfort didn’t last long.
Healing and Recovery
The healing process after the colposcopy and Leep procedure was similar in my experience. I had some mild bleeding afterwards, cramps here and there, and dark coffee like discharge from the solution applied to the cervix to reduce post surgery bleeding. Otherwise, I was able to continue my days as normal. The mental part and anxiety of the unknown was the more difficult part of the experience. After either a colposcopy or Leep procedure, the area has to be “undisturbed” for 3 weeks, meaning no tampons, sex, baths, etc. Possible complications like heavy bleeding or infection were discussed prior to each procedure and I was told to go to the ER if I happened to experienced any of those symptoms.
Why am I sharing my experience?
When I was going through this, I was worried. Anything that could potentially hint to cancer is scary, naturally! It’s important to remember that pap tests are screenings to detect changes of cells early so that they can be treated before it becomes cancer. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, because I was definitely worried when I was going through all this. Taking to my girlfriends about it though, I found out that in my circle of friends, five – FIVE- of my girlfriends had gone through the same and I didn’t even know! As women we don’t talk about these things, but it’s so helpful to talk to other women who have gone through the same, and it also shows that this is more common than spoken about.
I am currently 3 weeks post Leep Procedure, and have a follow up appt in August.
I hope this post was helpful to read. For more information, the recommended pap test schedule in Alberta listed here and information on the Alberta Cervical Cancer Screening Program here.
When was your last pap test? Have you had a colposcopy or Leep? Let’s talk!
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