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Colposcopy Risks

What risks are involved with having a colposcopy?

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Updated April 30, 2007

When a Pap smear comes back abnormal, a colposcopy is a common follow-up procedure that allows a doctor to view the cervix more closely. It involves the use of a colposcope. A colposcope is a lighted instrument that is like a large microscope, allowing the cervix to be magnified. During the exam, the colposcope rests outside of the vagina, and is not used internally.

A colposcopy is a painless exam and is usually performed in the doctor's office. Normally, a colposcopy is completed in 30 minutes or less.

Colposcopy Risks

Risks associated with having a colposcopy include:
  • vaginal irritation from vinegar solution
  • bleeding (if biospy is performed)
  • infection (if biopsy is performed)
Before the colposcopy is performed, your doctor will give you a consent form to sign that outlines the risks of having a colposcopy and other important information. Be sure to read over the information carefully, and ask questions if you don't understand something.

How to Minimize the Risks

Your doctor will send you home with a list of instructions. These instructions usually advise:
  • no sex for a specific amount of time
  • no tampons
  • no douching
  • no heavy lifting (more so for those who had a cervical biopsy with colposcopy)
  • no tub bathing for first 24 hours

When to Call Your Doctor

After a colposcopy, it is normal to experience spotting. If a biopsy it done, a thick, brownish discharge can also be expected. Some women experience minor cramping that can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications.

Call your doctor if the following occurs:
  • bleeding through a sanitary napkin in an hour
  • spotting for more than seven days
  • cramping that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medications
  • fever of 100 degrees F or more
  • bright red bleeding
  • chills
  • foul smelling discharge


References:
  1. "Special procedures: Colposcopy." American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 18 Feb 2007 <http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp135.cfm>.
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