Blush: Pregnancy

Ultrasound picture.

Blush’s Kickstarter is now LIVE! Please share this link on Facebook, through email, and in person with everyone you know! You never know who might want it (everyone, hopefully). Here is the link: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357195744/blush

Renaissance Press is publishing the game. I'm so lucky to have such a great team with me every step of the way!
Renaissance Press is publishing the game. I’m so lucky to have such a great team with me every step of the way!

If you didn’t think I was going to talk about pregnancy, you don’t know me very well. I’ve been saving up the questions, because I was afraid I’d be giving something away if I talked about it earlier!

This is my baby! Meet dragon. 😀 They are asleep in this picture, with their legs crossed at the ankle and both hands are on their forehead. Too cute.

Question

If I take a pregnancy test, and there’s a faint second line or plus sign, does that mean I’m pregnant?

Answer

Most likely. It is very difficult to have a false positive, but you can double check in a few days with another test (use a different colour of test, so if you had blue the first time, get a pink one, and vice versa) or by going to your doctor.

This is what happened to me. I took a test on New Year’s Eve morning, not because I thought we might be pregnant, but because if I didn’t take one, I’d spend all of my period wondering if it was less than usual, and was I actually pregnant? (Because you can still get your period while pregnant.) I was very surprised (but thrilled) to see a faint second line, and that’s when we found out that a faint line means positive, after scouring the internet for proof. We still took a second test on January 3rd (plus sign, this time), and then I went to the doctor for confirmation and to start all the things that need to be started.

Question

What does a pregnancy test measure? And why are there different kinds of test? Is one better than the others?

Answer

Pregnancy tests measure the amount of hCG hormone. hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, and it is a growth hormone that helps your baby, well, grow. As your pregnancy progresses, more of it is in your system, until it levels out at around 12 weeks. Doctors are suggesting that “morning” sickness is the body’s reaction to this hormone. Some people can handle its presence better than others, and so feel less illness than others.

There are different kinds of tests because some are more sensitive than others. The digital ones are *usually* more sensitive than the lines or plus/negative ones, but that doesn’t make the latter bad. It’s best to wait until just before your period anyways, so that you have a normal amount of hCG. On the side of the box, there is a place that says the test’s sensitivity – it will either be 10 or 25 mIU/mL. 10 is more sensitive than 25.

They are all testing the same thing (amount of hormone). You could go to the dollar store and buy a test, and it would be just as accurate (if not expired) as one from the drugstore.


 

If you have any questions (because there are a LOT of questions to be asked out there) fill out our anonymous question box, and I will answer them. And possibly include your question in the game! If we reach our first stretch goal, we’ll be adding 50 more questions to the game, so spread the word!


References

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/x7105/my-home-pregnancy-test-showed-a-faint-line-am-i-pregnant

Blush: Demi-sexual

The questions have been written and sent to the editors but if you’d like something answered on this blog feel free to ask us your anonymous questions!

blush back2
Blush: A card game logo. Image by Caroline Frechette of Renaissance Press. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Hello S. M. Carrière. Thank you for answering my questions today!

My pleasure!
For those who don’t know, what is demi-sexual?
A demi-sexual is someone on the asexual spectrum who requires a strong emotional bond with a prospective partner before there is any chance of sexual attraction. Which is to say, they don’t experience sexual attraction except in certain, quite particular, circumstances.  I should note here that a strong bond doesn’t necessarily equate sexual attraction, either.
How did finding out that there was a name for your sexuality affect how you saw yourself?
Honestly, the fact that there was a name for my identity gave me such a sense of relief.  I suddenly felt like I wasn’t a freak, after all.  Enough people are like me that they have a name for it, and it describes my identity almost perfectly.  It certainly has helped in giving me the language necessary to describe myself to others, and it’s a language that helps normalise my experiences.  That’s huge.  It’s helped me so much, especially in raising my self-confidence.
Are there any fictional characters you believe represent demi-sexuals in a positive way?
No, actually.  I’ve been racking my brain to find a character who is explicitly demi-sexual that I am aware of.  I can’t think of any at all. Asexuals of any stripe are wildly under-represented in media, it seems.
What kind of reaction do you like the most when people are told you are demi-sexual?
“Oh. Okay.”
Not to have your identity put under an aggressive cross-examination is refreshing, and I always feel less judged, less freakish, and less alone when the people I confess to aren’t really bothered about my sexual identity.
What kind of reaction do you dislike the most when people are told you are demi-sexual?
People can get ridiculously patronising when they find out, as if I couldn’t possibly understand my own identity as well as they understand me.  There’s usually some variation of: “Oh sweetie, you just haven’t had good experiences.”  It’s so frustrating and diminishing and, depending on who says it, quite upsetting.
I’ve also had the slimy: “Come home with me, I’ll change your mind.”  My sexual identity is not a challenge to be overcome, and acting like a sleaze is generally not conducive to forming that bond I require before I even entertain the idea of sex with someone.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure which is worse.
Why do you think people have such strange reactions?
Not a flipping clue.  I understand not comprehending something outside of one’s experience, but acting as if asexuality and the various identities along the asexual spectrum don’t exist is really confusing to me.  Lack of comprehension should prompt questions, not outright denial.  I remain confused and bewildered by some of the reactions I’ve received.
Are there any attitudes or societal norms that are frustrating for demi-sexuals?
I cannot pretend to speak for all asexuals, but asexual erasure really bugs me.  In a culture obsessed with sex, being someone who isn’t can make things tough.  It’s tough relating to people a lot of the times.  It’s worse when people outright disbelieve you, and try to come up with all kinds of psychological reasons, or other possible explanations for your sexuality.  It’s a slap in the face, because it’s tantamount to being called a liar, or broken/wrong/somehow deficient, or that an integral part of what makes you you simply doesn’t exist.
Do you know other people in the demi- or asexual spectrum?
No, actually.  At least, none that have openly identified as demi- or asexual.
Are there any communities and support groups (either in person or online) for people discovering themselves?
I’m a huge fan of The Trevor Project, which gives information on pretty much all sexualities.  It’s where I first discovered that asexuality was a thing, and that it didn’t mean I was broken/wrong/somehow deficient.  There are a couple of great YouTube channels that cover all kinds of stuff about sex and sexuality: lacigreen (Sex+) and Sexplanations.  Watching those in the early stages of self-discovery really helped open my eyes and got me asking the right questions.  Sexplanations led me to asexuality.org.
What is one question that you wish you could be asked about being demi-sexual?
Where can I learn more?
That would be nice.  No arguments about whether or not my identity is a real thing (it is), no sleazy propositions trying to get me to change my mind, just, “I don’t get it, where can I learn about it?”


Born in 1983 and raised in various countries around the globe, S.M. Carrière has always felt drawn to epic tales of heroes and villains.  An avid reader herself and despite always writing, she did not think of becoming an author until her final year of university, when she found herself compelled to the craft (when she ought to have been studying).  She self-published her first title, The Dying God and Other Stories, in 2011 at the urging of a friend, and has not stopped since, publishing one book each consecutive year.

Blush: Clitoris

We are filming for the Kickstarter THIS Friday, February 12th, 2016 in the Algonquin College Student Commons (E building in Ottawa) from 2:30 to 3:30 pm. Do you want to help out? Come and be in our video! We’ll be asking some easy questions and some tougher ones from the game for the video, and don’t be afraid to get the answer wrong – this is all about learning!

Also, we have a logo! Isn’t it gorgeous?

blush back2
Blush: A card game logo. Image by Caroline Frechette of Renaissance Press. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

I haven’t talked much about physiology yet. Let’s remedy that!

Question

What is the clitoris?

Answer

The clinical definition is that it is the sensitive part of the female sexual organs, and it’s only function is to provide pleasure. Who knew that women were the ones that had a body part solely dedicated to pleasure!

There is a lot to be learned about the clitoris. For one thing, it’s a LOT bigger than most people think. Only a tiny portion of it is visible; the rest is hidden inside the body.

Image from esacademic.com. Look familiar?
Image from esacademic.com. Look familiar?

This image should look somewhat familiar to those of you who have studied anatomy in school, or if you have a penis. This is because the equivalent anatomy in a male is the penis.

Like penises (peni?), clitorises (clitori?) vary in shape, size, and colour. They also vary in amount of stimulation needed. Some women prefer direct contact, others prefer proximity.

Hope to see you on Friday!


References

http://www.esacademic.com/pictures/eswiki/67/Clitoris_anatomy_labeled-en.jpg
http://news.health.com/2015/10/05/10-things-you-never-knew-about-the-clitoris/

Blush: Not in the Mood

I have completed the initial 200 questions necessary for the Blush card game! However, they are now with the editor, and I might have to add new ones. If you desperately want a topic covered, ask us your anonymous questions here!

Not in the mood. Image from here.
Not in the mood. Image from here.

Question

I received a variety of questions asking “What do I do if my partner isn’t in the mood?”

Answer

Talk to your partner. Find out if they would prefer to be left alone or cajoled out of their mood, without putting pressure on them. It might be a good idea to ask this in advance, so that you don’t put pressure on them at the time.

“If you’re not feeling in the mood, what would you like me to do?” is a good way to ask them.

Sometimes people aren’t feeling up to doing it, just like I was feeling about writing this blog post. I had a really long day and didn’t feel like I’d done very much, because I hadn’t had the chance to tackle more than one thing on my to-do list today. (Plus, I have a headache.)

Unlike blog posts, you should never try to force the issue. If your partner says no, you need to respect their wishes. Check out this excellent video on consent.

The most important thing is to know your partner. How can you make them feel better? How can you make them feel loved and cherished? What do they need? Instead of focusing on getting your partner in the mood (which usually doesn’t end well, unless they want to be – see the question you can ask them above), think of other ways to hang out with them. Intimacy is more than just sex.

Suggestions for ways to be intimate without sex can be submitted in the comments! Here are a few of my favourites to start you off: brushing my hair, or snuggling on the couch.

Blush: Transgender

I have completed the initial 200 questions necessary for the Blush card game! However, they are now with the editor, and I might have to add new ones. If you desperately want a topic covered, ask us your anonymous questions here!
This week, I’m doing something a little different. I met Lily through the Adult Nerdfighter group on Facebook, and she’s been brilliant, funny, positive, and intelligent in all her comments and posts. Then I found her blog, was impressed by her quality of writing, and got the idea to do an interview-style post about transgender with her, seeing as she is open about talking about her experiences. I hope you like it!
The Transgender flag. Image from www.algbtical.org
The Transgender flag. Image from www.algbtical.org
Hi, Lily. Thank you for answering my questions today!
No problem! I’m happy to answer them.
What sort of questions do you get asked all the time when someone finds out that you are transgender?
Uh, you mean besides what my genitals look like? Ha. People tend to be mostly respectful, apart from that. When they feel comfortable, they sometimes ask me what I like about being a woman, or what differences I’ve noticed in how people treat me.
Why do people ask such personal questions about your body? Do they think they can get away with it?

I don’t know, maybe they just want to learn more. It definitely is a sense of entitlement. A lot of people seem to think they have a right to make someone uncomfortable just so they can have their curiosity sated.

What was the response from your doctor when you first told them that you were transgendered and wanted to do something about it?
Oh, we don’t have “a doctor” the way our medical system works. I just get assigned to visit a random one if I have anything I want a medical opinion on. None of them blink an eye when I tell them, though lately that I’ve started to look more and more like any other woman there have been some awkward moments when they ask me when I had my last period, or whether I might be pregnant.
Do you think you would have had a different response in another country, like Canada or the USA?
Possibly. It depends on the region. Someone in Bogotá, where I live, might not react the same way as someone in a pueblo, a traditional small town. I think the same applies for the US and Canada. A doctor in South Carolina is more likely to act a different way than one in New York.
When were you/will you be allowed to change your name legally? What was it like to see your first ID with your name on it?
Oh, I did that ages ago. Haha. I was given a temporary ID with my name about 6 months ago, and got my shiny official ID with a big “F” and my name on it about 3 or 4 months back. It felt wonderful. I still get a giant grin on my face everytime I look at it.
I really liked how you described gender dysphoria in your post last week. Can you summarize it here?
Gender dysphoria just feels plain wrong. Imagine a row of carefully lined pencils, with one single pencil skewed 3 degrees to the side. Do you feel uncomfortable just thinking about it? Gender dysphoria is something like that, only a lot stronger, much more depressing, and ever-present.
You explain that so well.
Do you find that people treat you differently as a girl?
Absolutely. Women are more open to me, and men are a lot more polite, respectful and gentle (except for the creepy minority who hit on me now, of course)
What would you say to someone who is just starting their transition?
There are a lot of things that will make you feel like giving up. Keep going.
What is one question that you wish you were asked, and how would you answer it?
“How can I make life easier for other transgender people?”
I would say to just treat us like human beings. People tend to avoid you and walk on eggshells around you. It’s isolating and dehumanising.
Do you have a list of online resources or communities that you go to that makes you feel safe and unjudged? Will you share it with us?
Two main ones: There’s Adult Nerdfighters, a community on Facebook for nerdy open-minded people; and reddit.com/r/asktransgender/ a place where I can share some of my experiences and thoughts with people who have lived through something similar.
Thank you so much, Lily, for sharing your experience with us. Readers, follow her blog (idontstandstill.wordpress.com), she updates every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Blush: Menstruation

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

Image from www.bravelittlenib.files.wordpress.com
Image from www.bravelittlenib.files.wordpress.com

Question

What is menstruation?

Answer

To put it simply, menstruation is when the female body sheds the lining of her uterus.

This happens for the first time in between the ages of 10 and 17. Please note that the age you get your first period does not necessarily run in your family. My grandmother was 17, her youngest daughter was 10. I was 2 months shy of 14.

The length of period can vary between 3 days and 1 week. If it is longer than this, please consult your doctor to be safe.

The lining of the uterus is built up over a 28-36 day period, to protect and nourish a fetus. If no fetus is present, the old lining is removed from the body to prepare for a new one.

Participating in continuous strenuous activity may extend the time in between your periods, and might delay you getting your first period. Being under excessive stress might extend the menstrual cycle. Not having enough to eat, or not eating healthy, might affect your period. An imbalance of hormones in your body might affect your period. Being around a group of girls for extended periods of time might cause your periods to sync.


References

www.kidshealth.org
www.always.com
www.webmd.com
www.health.com

Blush: Condoms

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

Star Wars condoms? Why not? Image from mic.com
Star Wars condoms? Why not? Image from mic.com

Question

Who should buy condoms? When should they be bought?

Answer

You should buy condoms when you and your partner are ready to have sex.

But…should the boy or the girl buy the condoms?

Did I mumble?

How many times have I heard this question? Too many to count, in all its various forms. “The guy should buy the condom, because he doesn’t want to get the girl pregnant.” or “The girl should buy the condom, because she doesn’t want to get pregnant.”

This is frustrating for many reasons. One, this presumes that the hypothetical couple is heterosexual. Better to not assume. Two, it focuses only on the prevention of pregnancy. Sure, condoms are great for that. But they are used for so much more! Three, gender stereotyping is bothersome in all its forms!

And why is it so bad for both partners to buy condoms? Having too many is not a problem!

Condoms should be used as protection when you and your partner are unsure of your sexual pasts. Until you both get tested, even if it’s your first time, you cannot be certain that you are clean from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Protect both of you by using condoms.

Condoms are great for protecting against pregnancy if used properly, although pregnancy isn’t an issue for everyone.

If you are part of a couple and are planning on having sex, (where you and your partner have given enthusiastic consent) why not go shopping for condoms together? It can ramp up the anticipation, you get the right size, and the brand you both prefer.

If you plan on getting together with a one-night stand, (I’m not judging, have consensual fun as adults!) you should have a condom with you, whether you are a male or female. You can’t assume that your partner will have thought of it, or have the right size, or know that you have a latex allergy. (If you’re a homosexual female, condoms can still come in handy. Read here about how to transform one into a dental dam!)

If you’re allergic to latex, there are several options available:

  1. Polyurethane condoms
    • longer shelf life than latex condoms, no scent, not as sensitive to temperature
    • transfer heat between skin and condom better
    • thinner, and less elastic, so you should use water or silicone based lube to avoid breakage
    • Trojan Supra is one such condom
  2. Polyisoprene condoms
    • synthetic latex material that does not produce the allergen
    • stretchier and more resistant to breakage
    • pair well with water and silicone based lubricants, but DO NOT use oil based
    • Lifestyles SKYN is one such condom
  3. FC2 female condom
    • strong, thin, flexible nitrile sheath
    • fits inside the woman before sex
      • note: I have not read anything about anal use for these condoms. Not recommended.
    • will fit any size of penis
    • FC2 is one such female condom
  4. Natural skin condoms
    • also known as sheep skin condoms
    • these condoms are NOT good enough to prevent STIs, as they are very porous, but will prevent pregnancy
    • completely biodegradable
    • transfers heat well, and can barely feel it
    • note: an odour is noticeable from these condoms, as they are made from an animal byproduct
    • Trojan NaturaLamb is one such condom

Use only one condom at a time. Two condoms, even one male and one female, will cause friction and break. Not can, will.

Also, when you are done with your condom, please throw it out in the garbage!

Story time! When my husband and I first moved into our house a year and a half ago, we noticed that the master bathroom sink was leaking. We finally found the source of the leak: the stopper had scraped its way through the metal of the pipe at the back! We bought a new pipe and stopper and replaced it (with my dad’s help). When we took out the old pipe, we found a very old, blackened condom that hadn’t been able to get past the stopper and was blocking the pipe! Gross!

Moral of the story is: throw your condoms in the garbage, NOT down the sink or in the toilet! If you’re trying to hide its use from your parents/kids/friends, you should buy Blush: A Card Game when it comes out, to open communication lines and remove the taboo surrounding sex! But seriously, if you’re trying to hide the evidence, wrap it in a tissue and stuff it in the bottom of the garbage can.

While you’re checking out condoms, check out the cool new Star Wars condoms! Are you a Sith or a Jedi? Either way, protect yourself!


References

http://www.yourtango.com/experts/lucky-bloke/4-fantastic-alternatives-latex-condoms-expert
http://www.sexualityandu.ca/stis-stds/how_do_i_protect_myself_from_stis_stds/male-condom
http://www.sexualityandu.ca/stis-stds/how_do_i_protect_myself_from_stis_stds/female-condom
http://www.sexualityandu.ca/en/health-care-professionals/contraception-birth_control_methods/condoms

Blush: Oral Sex

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

I thought for a long time about whether I should include topics like this one. Then I realized that this is the entire point of this project. We need to discuss topics that make us uncomfortable in order to erase the stigma that surrounds them. And oral sex needs to be discussed especially, because of the dangers that come with it.

Representing cunilingus: a cream pie.
Representing cunnilingus: a cream pie.
Representing fellatio: the peeled banana.
Representing fellatio: the peeled banana.

Question

What’s so dangerous about oral sex?

Answer

Oral sex is dangerous if you don’t use protection. People are less likely to use protection for oral sex because you aren’t going to get pregnant. Barriers like condoms and dental dams protect against more than pregnancy though; they protect us from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Not all STIs show visual symptoms, including HIV. Until you and your partner are certain that neither of you have an STI (testing is fairly simple in North America), use a barrier to prevent transmission.

Question

What sort of barriers are you talking about? I hate the taste of latex – I don’t want to use it!

Answer

Condoms (for fellatio) and dental dams (for cunnilingus) are standard use items. If you don’t happen to have a dental dam handy, a condom can easily be turned into one using some easy steps. A natural rubber latex sheet is also safe to use, as are latex gloves.

I’m resisting the urge to say that if you don’t like the taste of latex, don’t give oral sex. No-one is forcing you to give oral, and if they are, you should reconsider being with that person.

However, here are some actual tips:

  1. Buy flavoured condoms or dental dams. Dental dams are fairly new to the market, but they still have one or two flavours. Sex shops might have them in more.
  2. Use flavoured lubricant. You should be using water-based lube on the side of the latex that it touching skin anyways, and you can add some on the other side to remove the taste of the latex (somewhat. It’s not perfect.).

Do NOT flip the dental dam over and use the other side once it has been used on one side. I think that goes without saying, but there you go. I said it anyways.

DO hold the dental dam in place with your hands. It doesn’t do you any good if it moves around.

Be safe, and have fun.


References

http://www.sexualityandu.ca/stis-stds/how_do_i_protect_myself_from_stis_stds/dental_dam
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/oralsex.html

Blush: Prostates

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

Have you noticed lately that men have been growing mustaches and/or beards for Movember this month? My dad is growing a beard to support a friend, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Movember - grow a mustache or beard to support Prostate Cancer research. Image from www.francoischarron.com/
Movember – grow a mustache or beard to support Prostate Cancer research. Image from www.francoischarron.com/

Questions:

What is a prostate? Should I be worried about prostate cancer?

Answers:

A prostate is a smallish gland located, in biological males, in between the bladder and the penis. I found this anatomy slider incredibly useful in understanding where everything is. (Link is not particularly safe for work – there is a flaccid penis.) It surrounds the urethra, and during ejaculation, it releases a nourishing and protective fluid that helps the sperm travel through the urethra.

Prostate cancer is like any other cancer; cells that should replenish themselves normally go haywire and reproduce themselves so quickly (and abnormally) that they end up causing a tumour. These cells will also eventually travel to other parts of the body, and this is when it gets difficult to treat.

Should I be worried about it happening to me?

If you’re biologically female, no. If you’re biologically male, well, that’s why you should get tested by your doctor regularly. As with PAP tests checking for cervical cancer for people with a cervix, people with a prostate should be tested for prostate cancer.

There  are some things that will make you more likely to get prostate cancer (each type of cancer has the typical causes list: mesothelioma resources, breast cancer predisposition, etc). The older you are (over 50), the more likely you are to get it. Having family history of this type of cancer means you are more likely to get it (check also: Mesothelioma Explained). And, apparently, if you are ethnically African or Caribbean. Overweight, or not having a healthy diet, may also contribute (although I feel like doctors say that for everything).

Signs and Symptoms

“Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen

Symptoms are not always present especially in the early stages of prostate cancer. If detected and treated in its earliest stages (when cells are only in the prostate), your chances of survival are greatly increased. Early detection is key.” (Source quoted directly, due to the importance of the topic.)

What sort of testing will I have to go through?

This really depends on your doctor, but there are three main testing methods that might be used.

  1. Digital Rectal Exam – This is exactly what it sounds like. Your doctor will lube up his finger and insert it into the anus. He will feel for abnormalities on the surface of the prostate.
  2. PSA Blood Test – The blood test will look for a protein that only the prostate makes in your blood.
  3. Biopsy – This is only done if the doctor finds an abnormality in previous tests. They will refer you to a urologist to take a sample of the prostate to determine if the abnormality is, in fact, cancerous.

Final Thoughts

Biologically male or female, prostate cancer can affect you, either directly or indirectly. Tell the men in your life (or yourself, if you are male) to talk to their doctors about getting tested. Mild discomfort for a few minutes could save their (or your) lives. And if you’re reading this, I care about you. So please, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer!


References

http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/picture-of-the-prostate
http://www.prostatecancer.ca/prostate-cancer#.Vkvjl36rTIV
https://ca.movember.com/mens-health/prostate-cancer

Blush: PAP Tests

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

Questions

What is a PAP Test (Papanicolaou test)? When should I have one? What is it like?

Mermaid PAP Test. Image from theawkwardmoose
Mermaid PAP Test. Image from theawkwardmoose

Answer

What is it?

A PAP Test checks for abnormally growing cells on the cervix. These cells could be pre-cancerous or cancerous, and getting checked for them could prevent cancer. Cervical cancer is one of most preventable cancers, and it all depends on getting checked regularly.

When do I have to get one?

Ask your doctor. They all have different guidelines. Women’s Health suggests between the ages of 21-65. My doctor said “When you’re 21 or are sexually active.” (The former applied to me.) Different countries might have different health care plans that cover the test.

What happens during a PAP Test?

First of all, you should trust your doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, then you should ask to be recommended to another one. Mine is amazing. He (Yes, a male. It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable with a male doctor. They won’t be offended if you ask for a female doctor.) is excellent at explaining what’s going on with my issues, and he listens to my problems. If he doesn’t know because it’s something weird, he finds out and the nurses call me to let me know. I am lucky.

Yes, you’ll have to strip completely. Depending on the doctor’s office, they will provide you with either a cloth sheet or a paper one. Mine has cloth, but they’re very thin and not long enough to provide much privacy. Honestly, the only time I feel uncomfortable in it is when I’m waiting for the doctor to come into the room. Once he’s in, I forget that it’s uncomfortable. But everyone is different. You can ask if you are allowed to provide your own covering.

If you have a good doctor, they won’t charge right into the PAP Test. They’ll talk to you, ask if you have any questions, take blood pressure, etc. Then they’ll ask you to lie down and put your feet in the stirrups. I find that continuing to talk about your life helps to make this feel less uncomfortable. You have to spread your knees and it is possibly the most awkward and intimidating position imaginable. Just remember – practically every woman has had to deal with this same position before you. And men have to deal with the Prostate Exam! (This will be discussed at another time.)

A speculum. There are many types and sizes, reusable or disposable. Image from www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculum_(medical)
A speculum. There are many types and sizes, reusable or disposable. Image from Wikipedia

The speculum (see image above) will be lubricated (and if your doctor is nice, warmed) and inserted. It will feel very weird. Every time. It is widened, to allow for a visual check of the cervix, and then a removal of a thin layer of cells. The widening doesn’t hurt, but the removal is uncomfortable. It gives me the same feeling as scratching the inside of my bellybutton does. But that could be just me. (Anyone else feel uncomfortable about their bellybutton being scratched?)

That’s it! The speculum is closed and removed (which also feels weird). You may have some spotting, so you might want to wear a light pad afterwards.


References

http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/pap-test.html