A colposcopy is a short exam performed in a gynecologist’s office to examine a woman’s vagina, cervix and vulva. Colposcopies are typically performed if a pap smear reveals a woman has abnormal cervical cells. However, they may also be used to check on other issues, such as genital warts or an inflamed cervix.

To the patient, the procedure seems very similar to a pap smear. During a colposcopy, an instrument called a colposcope is inserted into the vagina so that the gynecologist has a lighted, magnified view. Using the colposcope, the gynecologist can better see if there are problem areas, tissues or disease including cervical cancer.

Things to Consider

The instructions to prepare for the colposcopy are the same as for a pap smear. That means in the day prior to your appointment, you should not douche, use tampons or insert any other products into your vagina. You should also not have vaginal sex. Doing any of these things could interfere with the results of the procedure.

About the Procedure

Just like with a pap smear, you will lie on an examination table, and the gynecologist will insert a speculum into your vagina to open it, which allows a better view of the cervix.

Your gynecologist will swab a solution in the area, which both removes mucus and helps highlight any problem tissues. The colposcope will be placed near the opening of your vagina, so your gynecologist can shine a bright light into it, and look through lens.

At this point, if you do not require a biopsy (to remove a tissue sample), the exam is complete. You can resume your normal activities immediately after your appointment.

If a Biopsy is Needed

If your gynecologist notices abnormal tissue, he or she will remove small samples that can be tested using biopsy tools. Prior to removal, your gynecologist may apply a medication to the area to prevent bleeding.

In the days after your biopsy, you may experience some vaginal discharge, as well as discomfort and cramping. You should reduce your activity for several days in order for your cervix to heal.