Preparing for Colposcopy

A colposcopy involves the examination of your vagina, vulva, and cervix with a special magnifying instrument called a colposcope. The colposcope helps us closely examine these areas and identify signs of disease that we can’t assess with the naked eye. 

We at The Association for Women’s Health Care typically recommend this relatively common procedure if you’ve had an abnormal or suspicious Pap smear. 

We may use the procedure to diagnose an inflamed cervix, genital warts, benign growths such as polyps, pre-cancerous changes, and cancers of the vagina, cervix, and vulva. 

Our OB/GYNs have the experience and expertise to identify and accurately diagnose diseases using colposcopy. We deliver professional, compassionate care as we determine whether your condition requires further examination or treatment. 

Knowing what to expect can help you feel more comfortable about having this in-office procedure. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your colposcopy.

Schedule around your period

The flow of normal menstrual blood can make it more difficult for us to get a clear view of your cervix. Ideally, you should have your procedure a few days after your period, when menstrual bleeding has ended. 

If it’s possible that you may have your period during a scheduled colposcopy, call our office so we can determine whether you should reschedule your appointment. During this time, use sanitary pads instead of tampons or a menstrual cup.

Avoid sex before your procedure

Your vagina should be free of foreign substances at the time of your colposcopy, since outside materials can make it more difficult to get accurate laboratory results. 

For the most accurate results, avoid vaginal intercourse for the two days before your colposcopy. You should also avoid inserting anything into your vagina, including tampons, sex toys, medications, douches, or spermicides, which can cause inflammation. 

Follow your physician’s recommendations

Depending on your condition, you may receive additional instructions to prepare for your colposcopy. Fasting usually isn’t necessary. 

While you typically don’t need sedation for this procedure, we may advise you to use an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, about a half-hour before your arrival. Check with us about discontinuing any current medications before your procedure. 

Understand what a colposcopy involves

A colposcopy is performed in the same position as a pelvic exam. You rest on your back with your feet in stirrups. We use a speculum to open the walls of your vagina so we can easily see your cervix and vagina.

During the procedure, we use a colposcope, a medical device that consists of a microscope with a light on the end. We place the colposcope outside the vagina, but it doesn’t touch you.

We look through this device to closely inspect areas of concern. Colored filters on the colposcope help us identify precancerous variations in small blood vessels. 

We may brush vinegar or an acetic solution over your vagina and cervix to wash away mucus. The solution highlights unusual areas by causing abnormal cells to turn white. You may experience burning or tingling when we apply the solution. 

The entire procedure usually takes about 15 minutes. 

Other procedures during colposcopy

If we identify suspicious areas during your colposcopy, we may perform a biopsy by taking a tissue sample for further examination. 

While we numb the targeted area for the biopsy, you may feel mild pressure or cramping. Depending on the reason for and location of your biopsy, we may remove a tissue sample using a scalpel, laser, or punch instrument. 

We may also perform an endocervical curettage during your colposcopy. This procedure uses a thin instrument with a loop on the end, called a curette. The curette scrapes tissue from the lining of your endocervical canal, the passageway from the uterus to the vagina.

After your colposcopy

You may experience spotting and dark vaginal discharge after your colposcopy, so bring sanitary pads to wear home. The dark discharge may be residue from a thick paste that we use to stop bleeding after a vaginal biopsy. 

Post-procedure recovery from a colposcopy with biopsy depends on whether you received anesthesia and the type of biopsy performed. Your recovery may be accompanied by discomfort or pain for one or two days. 

We may recommend avoiding sex, douches, and tampons until healing is complete. We may also advise you to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting. 

A colposcopy can help diagnose diseases that are best treated in their earliest stages. Schedule an appointment today at either our Chicago or Northbrook, Illinois, office.

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