What is Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is an exam that uses a magnifying device to view the cervix, allowing examiners to see problems that cannot be seen by the eye alone.

Why do I have to get a colposcopy?

  • Many women receive a colposcopy because they had an abnormal cervical cancer screening test, such as a pap smear. A colposcopy can provide more information about the abnormal screening results.
  • A colposcopy can also provide additional information regarding:
    • Genital warts on the cervix
    • Cervicitis, or an inflamed cervix
    • Benign growths, such as polyps
    • Pain
    • Bleeding

Do I need to do anything before my colposcopy?

  • The procedure is best done when a woman is not on her period.
  • In addition, for at least 24 hours prior, you should not:
    • Douche
    • Use tampons
    • Use vaginal medications
    • Have sex

What happens during a colposcopy?

  • The exam is performed in a healthcare provider’s office.
  • A speculum is used to hold open the walls of the vagina to allow the colposcope, or magnifying device, to view the cervix.
  • A mild solution is then applied to the cervix and vagina to view the cervix clearly. This solution may cause some discomfort or burning.
  • Sometimes, if a colposcopy exam reveals abnormal areas, a biopsy of these areas may be done. A biopsy is a minor surgical procedure to remove a small piece of tissue from the cervix. It may feel like a pinch or cause cramping.
  • Other times, an endocervical curettage may be performed, which takes cells from the cervical canal.
What happens after a colposcopy?
  • A colposcopy without a biopsy does not require any recovery.
  • A colposcopy with a biopsy may cause some discomfort or cramping for 1-2 days afterward. Over-the-counter pain medications can be helpful. There can also be vaginal bleeding or dark discharge for a few days. It is recommended to limit activity for a brief time afterward – do not have sex, do not use tampons, do not douche.
  • If a biopsy or endocervical curettage is performed, these will be studied in a lab before your healthcare provider can discuss the results with you.

All information is provided by:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists