The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). A special magnifying device with a light, called a colposcope, can be used to visually examine the cervix and vagina.
Female Reproductive Organs
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Colposcopy is usually done when a:
This procedure can be used to:
or precancerous changes
- Give more information about abnormal cells found on a pap smear
Find the location where a tissue
should be done
- Monitor treatment of abnormalities of the cervix
- Allow a visual exam of the cervix, vaginal walls, or vulva
Complications are rare. But, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have colposcopy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. These may include:
In the 24 hours before the procedure, your doctor may advise you to avoid:
- Having sexual intercourse
- Using medicine or creams in your vagina
Usually no anesthesia is needed. In certain cases, the cervix may be numbed with a local anesthetic.
You will lie on your back with your feet in foot rests. A device called a speculum will be inserted into your vagina. The speculum will gently spread apart the vaginal walls. The inside of the vagina and the cervix will be easier to see. The colposcope will be placed at the opening of the vagina. Then, the cervix will be wiped with a solution. The solution will make abnormal areas easier to see. The cervix and vagina will be examined closely with the colposcope. A long tool may be used to take a sample of tissue from the cervix or vaginal wall.
This procedure is usually painless. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch and mild cramping.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- If you did not have a biopsy, return to normal activities. You may have light bleeding for a couple of days.
- If you had a biopsy, you may feel sore for a day or two. You may also have bleeding and dark discharge. You may need to use a sanitary pad for a few days. Do not put anything into your vagina for at least a week. Do not use tampons or have sex.
- Baths and showers are OK.
Results from a biopsy should be ready in about one week. The results will determine whether you need more testing or treatment.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Heavy bleeding
- Fever, chills
- Severe pain
- Bad-smelling vaginal discharge
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Management of abnormal cervical cytology and histology.
Practice Bulletin No. 99.
Colposcopy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
. Accessed December 19, 2012.
Colposcopy. FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at:
. Updated August 2010. Accessed December 19, 2012.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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