Cervical Biopsies Do Not Feel Like Period Cramps

This is my personal account of having cervical biopsies. I share details of a medical nature in the article. If that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, do not read. If you are about to have cervical biopsies or if you have had cervical biopsies, I hope this article makes you laugh, makes you knowledgeable, makes you feel less alone.

I was clueless. 

I went into my appointment for a colposcopy knowing that a biopsy or two was in the cards for me, and I still showed up with my running clothes on and headphones around my neck.  I had a 50-minute run scheduled and a little biopsy wasn’t going to stop me.

I signed forms, dropped trou, and stretched out on the table with my feet in uncomfortable, metal stirrups.

Note: If you are a person that designs medical furniture such as exam tables, you can make a fortune developing stirrups that are padded. Look to the adductor machines at your gym for inspiration on keeping the thighs open for doctor and patient safety. Those little metal stirrups suck!

After painting my cervix in vinegar and then iodine, I was told that I definitely needed biopsies taken. Plural. Four or five.

I asked if I needed to brace myself, and my doctor replied, “I don’t know. Do you? I’ve already done one. They mostly just feel like period cramps.”

Easy, I thought. I didn’t even feel it.

The adrenaline must have worn off because I felt the second one and the third one. These were no period cramps. 

They were lightning bolts. They were punishments. They were…avoidable.

If you take nothing else away from this personal account of cervical biopsies, take this: ASK TO HAVE YOUR CERVIX NUMBED. IT IS LIKELY THAT NO ONE WILL OFFER IT, SO ASK FOR IT. 

Then, I started to feel faint.

I have low ferritin. Translation, I have low iron stores.  I’m a bleeder. I take a supplement as recommended by my doctor, and I get along just fine in the world. On the exam table, while getting biopsies, I don’t do so well. 

My doctor had to sit with her hand pressed on my cervix for a while. This created a painful pressure that I will not soon forget, but it was necessary and helped to stop the bleeding. I requested a snack or some juice to bring me out of my fog.

It took me about half an hour to sit upright. It took me 15 more minutes to walk.  I was given a pad the thickness of pillow to adhere to my underwear for the bleeding.  My partner had stubbornly insisted that he drive me to my appointment. I have never been so grateful to have a partner as bullheaded as myself.

I had this procedure three weeks ago as I write this. I have had nightmares all but two of the nights since. 

After I shared my story with a friend, she told me she went through the same thing! I shared with another friend, and guess what. She had the same thing done.  A family member who had biopsies 35 years ago still remembers the pain vividly and said that it was worse than childbirth.

Only two women I’ve spoken with who have had cervical biopsies said they were painless. I was not crazy. I was not overly sensitive. I was not alone.

Note: It took me two weeks to completely heal. That’s twice the average person’s time. This is all because of my iron issue. Since then, I’ve had a normal period and returned to the gym. I am waiting to be scheduled for a LEEP surgery soon. 

Things like abnormal pap smears, cervical biopsies, and LEEP surgeries feel terrifying and isolating. They shouldn’t. 

Lots of women share the experience of being told their pap smear was abnormal or that they have abnormal cells on their cervix. There is no reason for us to go through this alone. It doesn’t make us brave or strong to hide our feelings. It just makes us alone with our emotions!

The moment my friends and family told me about their experiences, I felt lighter. I felt a little bit better.

I hope this helps you feel a little lighter and a little bit better, too.

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