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Colposcopy is an exam of the cervix, vagina, and/or vulva using a microscope. This handout tells you what to expect before, during, and after colposcopy. 

Reasons You May Need This Exam

  • If you had an abnormal pap smear.

  • If you have had genital warts.

  • If you or your mother took a medicine called DES (diethylstilbestrol).

  • To see this part of your body more closely.

Before the Procedure

  • Do not use creams or gels in the vagina before the exam for at least 2 days.

  • Do not have sexual intercourse or use a douche one day before the exam.

  • If you will be on your period at the time of your procedure, please call the clinic to see if you need to reschedule your appointment.

  • Please inform clinic prior to your procedure if you may be pregnant.

  • Pain medicine is usually not needed, but if you wish, you may take 2 ibuprofen tablets (200mg each) one hour before the exam.

During the Procedure

  • This exam lasts up to 30 minutes. 

  • You will undress from the waist down and lie in the same way you would for a pelvic exam.  

  • The doctor will insert a speculum and look into the vagina using the scope. 

  • The scope does not go into the vagina.

  • A cold spray (vinegar mixture) may be used to help see possible abnormal cells. Sometimes this mixture causes mild stinging.

  • The doctor may remove small pieces of tissue (do a biopsy). You may feel pressure, pinching or cramping during the biopsy.

After Exam Care

If a biopsy is done:

  • You may have bleeding (light bleeding or spotting) and discharge with flecks of old, dark blood for 2 to 7 days.

  • You should not use tampons (unless told to do so), douche, or have intercourse for one week.

  • Your doctor’s office will let you know the results of your exam. The biopsy and Pap smear results take up to 7-10 days to return.

  • If you have any questions, please call your doctor.

Call Your Doctor 

  • If bleeding is heavier than a normal period.

  • If severe pain occurs that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine and lasts more than a few hours.

  • If your temp is above 100.4º F for 2 readings taken 4 hours apart.

  • If you have abnormal discharge or if it has a foul odor.