What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colposcopy

Jan 05, 2023
What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colposcopy
It’s natural to have questions when your doctor informs you that you need a colposcopy. Rest assured, you can discuss your questions and concerns so that you have peace of mind before the procedure.

If you’re scheduled for a colposcopy or your doctor has recommended one, learning about the procedure can help relieve any anxiety you may have going into it. Knowing what to expect can help you feel better prepared.

Board-certified OB/GYN Diana Heard, MD, and the team and Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Glendale, Arizona, are here to guide you through the process to alleviate any anxiety.

colposcopy is a procedure that enables your doctor to closely examine your cervix and vagina. This procedure is recommended when you experience issues like heavy periods or receive an abnormal Pap test. It’s a simple, nonsurgical procedure that provides valuable insight. 

Preparing for a colposcopy

We understand that you may be apprehensive about having a colposcopy. At Glendale OB/GYN, we want you to be fully informed.

Because we need to closely examine the tissues inside your vagina, you should avoid anything that could contaminate or change the environment for a few days before your colposcopy.

Sexual intercourse

Vaginal sex within 24 hours before your colposcopy may affect the results, so avoid intercourse the day before.

Medication for vaginal use

Compounds introduced into your vagina may temporarily alter the appearance and texture of the tissues. Refrain from using any vaginal medications or other substances such as lubricants, gels, or ointments.

Menstrual cycle

Make every effort to schedule your colposcopy when you are not menstruating. During your period, our experts will be unable to perform the procedure.

Pain alleviation

Although most patients tolerate the colposcopy procedure well, you may have some discomfort that you can minimize by taking ibuprofen or a comparable over-the-counter pain medication prior to the operation.

During your colposcopy

A colposcopy is identical to a Pap smear or any other normal pelvic exam. First, we ensure that you are comfortable on the exam table and that your feet are properly supported.

We next ask you to scoot down toward the end of the table so that we can get a closer look at your vaginal area. We gently place a small tool known as a speculum into your vagina and slightly extend it to keep the vaginal walls open.

The colposcope, which is simply a magnifying lens, is then placed near your vulva. We can now see into your vagina and examine your cervix. 

What if a biopsy is necessary?

Depending on what we see, our team may determine that taking a small sample of tissue for evaluation in the lab is in your best interests. There are two types of biopsies that can be performed.


If we notice any suspicious-looking tissues or cells on your cervix, we will collect a small sample with a sharp device. Expect some pressure and some discomfort, although a cervical biopsy isn't usually painful.


If we find abnormal vaginal tissue, you may have mild-to-moderate pain when we take the sample. Some have described it as a stinging squeeze. If necessary, we can provide you with a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable.

Care after your colposcopy

If your colposcopy did not include a biopsy, you should not experience any bleeding.

If you had a biopsy, you may experience some light bleeding for a few hours to a few days, so wear a pad until it stops. You may leave the office soon after the procedure and resume most of your daily activities.

Avoid sexual activity for a week after the biopsy, and don't use tampons during that time.

Getting your results

The findings of your colposcopy usually take one to two weeks. If you had a biopsy, the results can take up to four weeks. Once your results are in, we will discuss your diagnosis and any next steps.

Our team won’t leave you with any guesswork or unanswered questions. At Glendale OB/GYN, our experts will ensure that you understand the process every step of the way. If you have any questions or concerns, and for all of your gynecology and obstetric needs, schedule a visit with Dr. Heard by calling or booking online