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Are you about to undergo a colposcopy and do you want to know what to expect? Or have you just had a colposcopy and do you want to know whether the symptoms you are experiencing afterward are normal? 

Let's take a look!

Who Needs A Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a non-invasive procedure during which your healthcare provider views your cervix — the opening to your uterus — with a lighted and magnifying device called a colposcope. It allows your healthcare provider to detect problems that they would not be able to observe with the naked eye, or to observe known problems in more detail. 

You may be advised to undergo a colposcopy if:

  • Your cervical cancer screening test came back inconclusive or abnormal.
  • To investigate the cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or pelvic pain.
  • To further investigate genital warts, benign growths such as polyps, or an inflamed cervix.  
Your vagina and cervix will be swabbed with a cleaning solution to clear mucus during the procedure, and where necessary, a cervical or vaginal biopsy (tissue sample) may also be taken. 

What Do You Need To Know And Do Before Your Colposcopy? 

You shouldn't have sex, douche, or insert anything (including vaginally-applied medications) into your vagina in the 24 hours immediately preceding your colposcopy. It is also advisable to undergo the colposcopy when you are not menstruating. 

The number one question many women have before they undergo a colposcopy is whether the procedure will hurt. You will experience a mildly uncomfortable burning sensation while you are swabbed with a solution to clear away mucus during your colposcopy, but the feeling will have passed by the time your colposcopy is finished. If you end up having a biopsy — or multiple biopsies from different sites — taken, you may experience some pain and cramping. Where necessary, you will, however, be given a numbing agent before the biopsy is collected. 

The procedure will be over within 10 to 20 minutes, and it will feel like a slightly more drawn-out PAP screen. 

What Can I Expect After My Colposcopy? 

If no biopsy was taken during your colposcopy, you can resume all your normal activities right away. While you are unlikely to experience any nasty after-effects, some women do report slight cramping, discomfort, and altered vaginal discharge for a few days. 

Women who did have a biopsy taken face a slightly longer recovery period after their colposcopy.

A colposcopy with a biopsy is likely to lead to vaginal pain or discomfort for several days. You can take over the counter painkillers such as acetominophen or ibuprofen to relieve this pain. Avoid Aspirin, which is a blood thinner. 

You can also expect some vaginal bleeding or spotting, and you may notice unusual vaginal discharge. This discharge may include remnants of vaginal or cervical tissue. Many women who have just had a colposcopy and biopsy are alarmed by this discharge, but they do not need to worry. Please avoid using tampons to "catch" your bleeding and discharge, and use sanitary pads instead. While you are bleeding or spotting, also refrain from sexual intercourse. 

When Should I Be Worried?

Please call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms after a colposcopy (with biopsy):

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Saturating more than one sanitary pad every hour. 
  • Lower abdominal pain that is bad enough to worry you. 

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