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What do I need to know about a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a procedure to look at your cervix and inside your vagina. You may need a colposcopy if you have any of the following:

  • Abnormal cells found on a pap smear
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Genital warts
  • Have been treated for problems on your cervix or in your vagina

How do I prepare for a colposcopy?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. Do not douche, use tampons, or have sex for 24 hours before the procedure. Do not put medicines in your vagina for 24 hours before the procedure. Call your healthcare provider if you have your menstrual period on the day of the procedure. You may need to wait until your period ends to have the procedure. Your healthcare provider may tell you take ibuprofen before your procedure to decrease cramping.

What will happen during a colposcopy?

  • Your healthcare provider will insert a speculum in your vagina. A speculum is an instrument that holds the vagina open so your provider can see your cervix. The provider will place a colposcope near the opening to your vagina. A colposcope has a magnifying lens that helps your provider see your cervix better. The provider will apply a liquid to your cervix. The liquid helps your provider see abnormal areas more clearly. You may feel burning or tingling when the liquid is applied.
  • If abnormal areas are seen, your healthcare provider may place a numbing medicine on your cervix. He or she will take samples of tissue from your cervix (a biopsy). The samples can be sent to a lab and tested for cancer or infection. You may feel pain or cramping when the sample is taken. Your healthcare provider may place medicine on your cervix to control bleeding.

What will happen after a colposcopy?

You may have light bleeding or spotting after the procedure. If a biopsy was taken, you may have cramping and bleeding for several days. If medicine was used to control bleeding, you may have brown or black discharge.

What are the risks of a colposcopy?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. A biopsy of your cervix may cause problems with future pregnancies, such as preterm labor or miscarriage.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.