As a sex educator, there are certain themes that emerge that you can come to expect. For example, when someone sees a speculum for the first time, their first comment is usually that it looks like a duckbill platypus beak. Or if they aren’t familiar with the platypus family, they say, “Um, that goes where?”
So, the speculum can not be found on the control panel of the Starship Enterprise or in a laser spectronomy laboratory. A speculum, my friends, is that plastic or metal instrument that a gynecologist uses to spread the vaginal walls so the cervix can be seen and reached. They are used during Pap smears and other gynecological procedures like IUD insertion or colposcopy. They come in various sizes and I think it would be cool if they had neat designs on them or lit up in neon colors – it would be my way of saying, sorry to bother you, Ms. Vagina, but look how fun this can be!
When a speculum is inserted, it should not hurt. It might feel uncomfortable, especially if you are tense, but if you feel pain, alert the medical professional right away. I know, I know, how are you supposed to feel comfortable in a paper “gown” (seriously, a gown?!) in a sub-freezing room with your feet in stirrups and your lady parts in a stranger’s face? Well, no one wakes up excited for their “annual,” but it is one of those things that we just do because we know we should. Our vaginal and cervical health is important. So this year, when the doctor or nurse is telling you to “scooch all they way to the end of the table,” just remember that a speculum is NOT a duckbill platypus, and is actually a tool that can help save your life.