A special magnifying device with a light, called a colposcope, is used to visually examine the cervix and vagina.

Female Reproductive Organs

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Reasons for Procedure

Colposcopy is usually done when a:

This procedure can be used to:

  • Help diagnose cervical cancer
  • Give more information about abnormal cells found on a pap smear
  • Find the location where a tissue biopsy should be done
  • Monitor treatment of cervix abnormalities
  • Make a visual inspection of the cervix, vaginal walls, or vulva

Possible Complications

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, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Discomfort

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

In the 24 hours leading up to the procedure, your doctor may advise you to avoid:

  • Douching
  • 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.

Description of the Procedure

You will lie on your back with your feet in foot rests. The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina. The vaginal walls will be spread apart to see the inside of the vagina and the cervix. The doctor will place the colposcope at the opening of the vagina. Then, the doctor will wipe the cervix with a solution. The solution will make abnormal areas easier to see. The cervix and vagina will be examined closely with the colposcope. The doctor may use a long tool to take a sample of tissue from the cervix or vaginal wall.

How Long Will It Take?

About 5-10 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?

This procedure is usually painless. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch and mild cramping.

Post-procedure Care

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 have 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, have sex, or douche.
  • Baths and showers are OK.

Results from a biopsy should be ready in about one week. The results will determine whether you need further testing or treatment.

Call Your Doctor

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 911 .