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How to long should I wait to have sex after having a colposcopy?

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Updated February 01, 2013

Question: How to long should I wait to have sex after having a colposcopy?
I had a colposcopy yesterday and was wondering how long I need to wait before having sex. My Pap smear results came back abnormal, so my gynecologist said she wanted to examine my cervix more closely. The exam was not uncomfortable and I have not experienced anything out of the ordinary. Right after, I had a little spotting, but I usually experience this after every Pap smear. In fact, I was able to return to work directly after having it done. Since I feel normal, is it safe for me to resume having sexual intercourse with my boyfriend even though I had the procedure yesterday? If not, what could happen if I do?
Answer: When Pap smear results yield abnormal results, it is important to further examine the cervix. The best way for gynecologists to accomplish this task is by performing an exam called a colposcopy. For those who are unfamiliar with a colposcopy, it is an examination of the cervix with the aid of a medical instrument called a colposcope. A colposcope allows the doctor to thoroughly examine the vagina, vulva, and cervix by magnifying whatever is in the scope's field of vision. It is much like a microscope, but specially crafted for gynecologic uses. A colposcopy is non-invasive and the scope remains outside of the vagina during the entire exam.

Most women find a colposcopy to be completely painless and only as uncomfortable as a routine Pap smear. It is an extremely common exam and when paired with a cervical biopsy, it is a critical diagnostic tool for cervical conditions, like cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.

Sex After a Colposcopy

How long you should wait after having a colposcopy depends on whether your doctor also performed a cervical biopsy during the exam. During a colposcopy, an iodine solution or vinegar solution called acetic acid is applied to the cervix with a long cotton swab. Abnormal cells absorb the solution and react by turning brown or white after the solution is applied. If your doctor did not see anything abnormal after applying acetic acid or iodine, he or she may have found it unnecessary to biopsy the cervix.

If you did not have a cervical biopsy during your colposcopy, the usual wait time is about 48 hours, however, your doctor may recommend waiting longer or even resume sexual intercourse when you feel ready. You want to give your cervix a little time to heal after the exam. If you do have sex before the 48 hour mark, then you may experience spotting or mild cramping.

If you doctor did decide to perform a cervical biopsy during the exam, you definitely have to wait a little bit longer before you have sex. A biopsy involves removing samples of tissue from the cervix to be further examined by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases by microscopically examining tissue and bodily fluids. While not painful, you would be well aware if you had a cervical biopsy done during your exam. It's not something your doctor could perform without your knowledge because it does cause a degree of discomfort.

Typically, most doctors recommend waiting 1-2 weeks to have vaginal intercourse after having a colposcopy with a cervical biopsy. Small samples of tissue were removed from the cervix and it is essential to give the cervix time to heal. If you do decide to have sex after having a cervical biopsy, you increase the liklihood of cervical bleeding, pelvic cramping, and also infection. It's best to wait the time your doctor recommended to reduce the risk of these complications.

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