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What Is The LEEP Procedure?

Should you have found out that you have abnormal cervical cells during a PAP smear, a biopsy, or a colposcopy, the LEEP procedure may be recommended to you. The loop electrosurgical excision procedure uses a wire loop with an electrical current to remove abnormal cells , and it is effective in around 90 percent of all cases. It is among the most commonly used treatments for abnormal cervical cells. 

What Are The Risks Of A LEEP Procedure?

Most women will not experience worrying side effects following a LEEP procedure, however, as with any medical procedure, LEEP does carry certain risks. Those include bleeding after the procedure, an infection of the reproductive tract, cervical changes, and cervical scarring. 

In order to help you prevent complications, your healthcare provider will give you a set of instructions to follow after the procedure. These instructions include not having sexual intercourse for a period of time, typically four weeks, refraining from vigorous physical activities including heavy lifting, and contacting your healthcare provider if you notice signs of infection. 

Should you be pregnant or believe you could possibly be pregnant, you need to inform your healthcare provider before having the LEEP procedure. In most cases, the procedure can be postponed until after your baby is born. Should you be trying to conceive, remember not to have sex during the healing period, in accordance with your doctor's instructions. 

Pregnancy-Specific Complications Of The LEEP Procedure

Most women who have undergone a LEEP procedure will not encounter any problems in trying to become pregnant, nor during their pregnancies and deliveries. However, there are potential risks, and any woman of reproductive age who has been advised to undergo a LEEP procedure should be aware of them. 

Extensive research into the possible effects of the LEEP procedure on pregnancy outcomes primarily suggests an increased risk of preterm birth and having a low birth weight baby following the procedure.

Unfortunately, there may also be a possibility that the LEEP procedure interferes with your chances of becoming pregnant. That is because the LEEP procedure can lead to cervical narrowing. 

Women who have been advised to have a LEEP procedure and who wish to become pregnant in future should mention this to their doctor before going ahead. It is important to bring your wish to have a baby up, because alternative treatments may be better options for you in this case.

What Are The Alternatives?

Other treatments for abnormal cervical cells include:

  • Laser: Laser treatment appears to have less of an impact on future pregnancy outcomes than the LEEP procedure, making this a treatment option any woman who wishes to become pregnant after having abnormal cervical cells removed should discuss with her healthcare provider. 
  • Cryotherapy (freezing): Cryotherapy also does not appear to have an impact on the risk of preterm labor. 
  • Expectant management: In other words, a "wait and see approach". Abnormal cervical cells often resolve themselves, making treatment unnecessary. Discuss whether not doing anything for now, but continuing monitoring, is an option for you with your healthcare provider. 

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