NEW mothers are being encouraged to go for smear tests as part of efforts to increase uptake of cervical screening among young women.

Midwives and health visitors in Lanarkshire have been trained to talk to women about the importance of the check up amid fears that new mothers may feel more self-conscious about attending after having a baby or worry it will hurt more.

Read more: Young women 'embarrassed' to attend smear test

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women aged under 35 and all women aged 25 to 64 are invited for cervical screening.

However, fewer than three quarters of eligible women in Scotland attended for a routine smear test in 2017.

The initiative, trialled by NHS Lanarkshire in partnership with Cancer Research UK in Scotland, is seeking to boost uptake in the 25 to 35 age group.

Gillian Phillips, Cancer Research UK’s Facilitator in Scotland who is leading the initiative, said: “Time, fear and embarrassment are common reasons why younger women don’t attend cervical screening tests.

“Women can worry that the test is for cervical cancer itself, which can make them anxious and afraid.

"They don’t always understand that regular cervical screening can prevent cancer by picking up early changes in cells that can be treated.”

Read more: Warning as smear test attendance hits 10-year low

She continued: “Some women might also worry it might be a male GP doing the test, or they feel body conscious after having a baby, or they’re concerned it will hurt more after having a baby.”

Ms Phillips said working with health visitors and midwives will help reach more women in the 25 to 35 age group.

She said: “Midwives and health visitors are extremely well-placed to have conversations with women as they have regular contact with mums following the birth of their child. Not only are they known to the women, but they are a trusted source of information.”

“They can reassure women that most, if not all, smear takers in Lanarkshire are female and it’s possible to check this when making an appointment.

“The training also aims to help midwives and health visitors to allay women’s fears about cervical screening by acknowledging their concerns. For example, they are encouraged to take the equipment used for the test out on visits to show women, and explain what happens during the test. They can even offer to make a test appointment for women, which in itself can be a barrier for some.”

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Laura Wilson, a health visitor in Airdrie, has recently been trained as part of the programme.

She said: “I thought I knew about cervical cancer, but the training was really informative and has given me a more in-depth knowledge on why cervical screening is so important, and why it’s vital to raise awareness among women to help them understand screening and its benefits.

She continued: “The leaflets provided will be a great starting point for talking to new mums. It’ll be a good ice-breaker to have materials to show them and I think it will help us to break down the barriers for women who are afraid of going for their smear test.”

The new initiative, which is supported by the Scottish Government, has been launched to coincide with Cervical Screening Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday June 17.