Colposcopy – What is it?

What is a Colposcopy?

A Colposcopy is a simple gynaecological procedure performed to investigate certain symptoms you may be experiencing, or following an abnormal smear test result. It essentially takes a closer look at your cervix, vagina and vulva to look for signs of disease.


Typical symptoms where a colposcopy would be used include:


  • Unexplained pain
  • Cervicitis
  • Unexplained bleeding or other reproductive problems
  • Benign growths such as polyps
  • Tests show that you have human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Genital warts


How is a Colposcopy performed?

To prepare for a colposcopy, you should refrain from using any types of creams, tampons or douching products for a few days before your procedure. You should also abstain from sexual intercourse during this time. This will enable your doctor to get the best view of the tissue to be examined. It is also advisable to book your appointment when you are not menstruating as blood flow may obscure the tissue.
If you are pregnant, you can still have a colposcopy performed, but your doctor may not perform a biopsy in conjunction with it.


What happens during a Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is usually performed in a GP practice, community health centre or hospital outpatient setting. You will be asked to disrobe the same way that you would for a smear test and lie on an examination table. Your feet will be placed on footrests. Your doctor will use a speculum to hold the vagina open, then swab the area to be examined with a vinegar-like solution to make it more visible to help identify any abnormal cells.


The colposcope is a small microscope that resembles a set of binoculars and has a range of magnification lenses. The colour filters allow the doctor to detect tiny abnormal blood vessels on the cervix. Your doctor may take a biopsy at the time if it is felt necessary. This will involve a small piece of tissue being removed from the abnormal area that is then sent to a laboratory for further testing. Depending on the outcome, this will indicate what further steps your doctor should take to properly treat you.

Colposcopy - What is it?

Is a Colposcopy painful?

A colposcopy is almost pain-free. You might feel a slight bit of pressure when the speculum is inserted, and it might also sting or burn a little when your cervix is washed with the vinegar-like solution.


If you are required to have a biopsy, you might experience some discomfort such as the sensation of a sharp pinch or a period cramp. This may also result in some spotting or dark discharge from your vagina for a few days following your procedures. You can use a pad or panty liner if you need to, but it is not recommended that you use tampons.


What should I do after I’ve had a Colposcopy?

After your colposcopy, you will be required to get dressed and take a bit of time to relax before leaving the hospital. You will probably feel a bit sore for a couple of days, but this will soon settle down.


Some things to bear in mind after your colposcopy are:


  • Continue taking any medications as usual, including your contraception
  • You can shower or have a bath as soon as you would like to after your procedure
  • If you had a biopsy, you should refrain from having sex for about 3 days to allow time for your cervix to heal
  • If you did not have a biopsy then you can have as soon as you want to


For further information on Colposcopy and seeking help, please click here


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