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What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colposcopy

Heavy periods, abnormal Pap tests, and pelvic pain are just a few reasons you might need a colposcopy. Though the term may be intimidating, the procedure itself is quite simple and an invaluable step in determining what’s happening inside your vagina. 

Our team of OB/GYN specialists at Capital Women’s Care compassionately guide you through the process to ease your concerns. A colposcopy is a nonsurgical procedure that simply allows us to take a closer look at the tissues inside your vaginal area. 

Getting ready for a colposcopy

At Capital Women’s Care, we understand that you may be concerned about the colposcopy procedure, the potential results, or both, so we want you to know exactly what to expect.

Because we need to examine the tissues inside your vagina, anything that might contaminate or change that environment should be avoided for a couple of days before your colposcopy. 


Vaginal sex within 24 hours of your colposcopy could alter the results, so avoid intercourse the day before your procedure.

Vaginal medication

Substances inserted into your vagina may temporarily change the look and texture of the tissues, so don’t use any vaginal medications or other substances like lubricants, gels, or ointments, including douches.

Your period

Do your best to schedule you colposcopy at a time when you are not menstruating. Our team won’t be able to perform the procedure during your period.


Tampons tend to leave behind fibers or even cause micro tears that could alter the results of your colposcopy exam. You should stop using tampons for at least a day before your procedure.

Pain relief

Although your colposcopy procedure is generally painless, you may feel minor discomfort that can be avoided if you take ibuprofen or a similar over-the-counter pain medication prior to the procedure. 

What happens during your colposcopy

Having a colposcopy feels similar to having a Pap smear or any other routine pelvic exam. First, we make sure you’re comfortable on the exam table and position your feet in supports. 

We then have you scoot down toward the end of the table so we can have better access to your vaginal area. We gently insert a narrow instrument called a speculum into your vagina and slightly expand it to hold the walls of your vagina open.

Next, we place the colposcope, which is essentially a magnifying lens, near your vulva. Using a bright light, we can now easily see deep into your vagina and get a good look at your cervix. We may use a cotton swab to clear way any mucus if necessary. 

What if a biopsy is necessary?

Depending on what we see, our team may decide that it’s in your best interest to take a small sample of tissue, so we can examine it in the lab. There are two types of biopsies possible.


Your cervix is located at the lower part of your uterus where it narrows at the beginning of your vagina. If we see any suspicious-looking tissues or cells on your cervix, we use a sharp instrument to take a small sample. You can expect some pressure and mild discomfort, but a cervical biopsy isn’t generally considered painful.


If we notice abnormal vaginal tissue, you may feel some mild-to-moderate pain at the moment we take the sample. Some describe it as a sharp pinch. If needed, we can offer you a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable.

Post-colposcopy care

If your colposcopy did not involve a biopsy, you shouldn’t feel any pain, nor should you have any bleeding.

If you had a biopsy as well, you may notice some light bleeding for a few hours and up to a few days, so you should wear a pad until it stops. You are free to leave the office immediately after the procedure and can return to most of your normal activities.

Avoid sexual intercourse for a week after you biopsy, and don’t use tampons or douches during the same time period.

What results are possible?

After your colposcopy, it typically takes one to two weeks to get results. Biopsy results may take up to four weeks. Once your results are in, we discuss your diagnosis and your best treatment options moving forward. 

Possible results could show:

About 60% of women who have colposcopy receive results that reveal abnormalities, but if you’re one of them, don’t panic. Most often this is good news, because it means we may have detected precancerous cells that can be treated before cancer develops.

If you need a colposcopy, we hope we’ve helped you understand the procedure and have given you some peace of mind. If you’re searching for the right team of experts to trust, please give us a call or request an appointment online

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