It may be unsettling when your gynecologist requires to tell you your Pap smear results were abnormal and that you need a colposcopy, an in-office process where your doctor examines your cervix more closely with a magnifying instrument.
The fantastic thing is that this procedure is straightforward and can be quickly performed within the comforts of a patient room in your doctor’s office.
That being said, understanding what a colposcopy involves can lessen any anxiety you may feel going into one.
Why Am I Getting a Colposcopy?
Your doctor can advise a colposcopy if your Pap smear results indicate abnormal cervical changes. According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), it may also be performed to assess for:
- An inflamed cervix (this is called cervicitis)
- Non-cancerous growths on the cervix (polyps)
- Genital warts on the cervix
These abnormalities may have been noticed by your physician during your pelvic exam and Pap smear.
In addition, your doctor may also perform a colposcopy should you report abnormal symptoms like bleeding or pain.
How to Get Ready for Your Own Colposcopy
It’s ideal to undergo your colposcopy whenever you are not menstruating. It’s also very important to not place anything into your vagina for a minumum of one day prior to the process — that means not using some other vaginal creams, having intercourse, douching, or using tampons.
It’s also important to let your physician know if you are taking any blood-thinning medications like aspirin or warfarin. These medicines can increase your chance of bleeding with a cervical biopsy, which is a very small sample of cervical tissue sometimes taken during a colposcopy. Tell your physician also if you’re pregnant.
While colposcopies are usually considered safe during pregnancy, your physician may wish to refrain from taking a biopsy.
Things to Expect During a Colposcopy
A colposcopy is an easy 10- to 15-minute procedure that’s painless and performed in a gynecologist’s office. In reality, you can expect your colposcopy appointment to be like your Pap smear appointment.
You’ll start by laying back on the examination table and placing your feet in footrests. Your health care provider will then place a speculum in your vagina. When the speculum is in position, your healthcare provider will put a vinegar solution onto your cervix to generate the abnormal areas easier to see.
Next, your doctor will properly place the colposcope (it looks like a massive microscope which sits on a stand and has a bright light) close to your vaginal opening, so the light is shining on the vagina and vagina.
During a colposcopy, your doctor may notice white areas on the cervix, which indicate abnormal cervical changes. Any abnormal vascular (blood vessel) changes are visible through the colposcope.
Eventually, your healthcare provider will take a tissue sample or biopsy, if necessary, in the abnormal locations and ship it to a laboratory for additional evaluation.
You should get back the results within one or two weeks. Make sure you call your doctor’s office if you do not hear back within this time period.
What to Expect After a Colposcopy
Girls who do not call for a cervical biopsy generally feel good after a colposcopy, though they might have very mild spotting.
If you had a colposcopy with a biopsy, you ought to wear a sanitary pad, since you will experience some vaginal bleeding. You could also experience mild adjustments for another 24 to 48 hours. Ordinarily, this pain is treatable with over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen).
Besides a light vaginal bleeding, then you can observe a dark discharge, which is likely due to a solution your physician applied to the cervical biopsy site. This vaginal discharge shouldn’t be bad smelling, so call your doctor if it’s. Though your cervix heals, your doctor may recommend that you refrain from placing anything into your vagina like tampons or with intercourse.
If your pain doesn’t improve with over-the-counter drugs or your bleeding last for longer than seven days, contact your healthcare provider for followup information.
Additionally, according to ACOG, it is important to call your doctor straight away in the event that you experience significant bleeding (like more than a sanitary pad per hour), severe lower abdominal pain, fever, and/or chills after a colposcopy.
A Word From Verywell
While it’s normal to worry before your colposcopy, knowing what to expect during the procedure and after can hopefully calm your nerves.
Finally, one tidbit to remember is that”no news, does not necessarily mean decent news.” Stay an advocate for your health and call to follow up on test results in the event that you do not hear back.
Ask questions too if you are worried or do not understand your results — that’s what your healthcare team is for, and they want to guide and care for you.