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Colposcopy is a procedure that gives a magnified view of the cervix and/or vagina. It is done using a lighted microscope called a colposcope.

Reason for Colposcopy

Colposcopy is usually done as a follow-up exam to help find the cause of an abnormal Pap test. Abnormal tests are often due to an HPV (human papilloma virus) infection. HPV is a large family of viruses that can cause genital warts and/or changes in cervical cells. Colposcopy is also used to assess other problems such as pain or bleeding during intercourse, or a lesion on the vulva, vagina, or cervix.

Possible Risks

Colposcopy is a very safe procedure. It usually takes less than 10 minutes, and most women have only minor discomfort. You can often go back to your normal routine right away. Problems after colposcopy are rare, but can include bleeding or infection.

Getting Ready for the Procedure

Colposcopy is done in the office and usually scheduled for a time that you are not having your period. A day or two before the procedure, you should avoid:

  • Intercourse.
  • Tampon use.
  • Vaginal creams/medications.
  • Douching.

Also, you may take over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or Aleve an hour or two before the procedure.

During Colposcopy

You will be asked to lie on the exam table and a speculum is inserted into the vagina just like for a the Pap test. A vinegar solution is applied to the cervix to make the tissue easier to see. This may cause pressure or a slight burning sensation. The cervix is viewed through the colposcope which is placed outside the vagina. If any abnormal area(s) are seen, a biopsy is done of the area(s). The sample(s) will then be sent to a lab for study. You may feel slight pinching or cramping during the biopsy. Medication may be applied to the biopsy site to stop the bleeding which may cause an additional burning sensation.

After the Procedure

If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, you can rest on the table until you are ready to get dressed. If a biopsy was done, you may have mild cramping or light bleeding for a few days. You may also have vaginal discharge from the medication used to stop the bleeding. Use pads, no tampons, for at least the first 24 hours. You may continue the previously mentioned over-the-counter medications for discomfort. Intercourse may be resumed after the bleeding and/or discharge has stopped.


If a biopsy was done, you can follow-up in two to three weeks after the procedure to review the results and discuss options. At this time, a treatment plan will be discussed. In some cases, close observation may be recommended. Other treatment options may include cryotherapy, excision or conization of the cervix.