Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Colposcopy: Before Your Procedure
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Colposcopy: Before Your Procedure

What is a colposcopy?

Colposcopy lets a doctor look at your vulva, vagina, and cervix. If the doctor sees a possible problem, he or she can take a small sample of tissue. Then another doctor studies the tissue under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.

Most women have this procedure after they have abnormal results from a Pap test.

During the test, your doctor puts a lubricated tool into your vagina. This is called a speculum. It gently spreads apart the sides of your vagina. This allows your doctor to see inside your vagina and the cervix. The doctor also uses a magnifying device to help him or her see better. This device does not go inside your vagina.

The doctor may put vinegar or iodine on your cervix. This can help the doctor to see any areas that are not normal. Sometimes the doctor also takes photos or videos.

When the speculum goes in, it can feel a little uncomfortable. If the doctor does a biopsy, you may feel a pinch and have some cramping.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Tell your doctor if:
    • You are having your menstrual period. This procedure usually isn't done during your period. This is because blood makes it harder to see your cervix.
    • You are or might be pregnant. A blood or urine test may be done to see if you are pregnant. Colposcopy is safe during pregnancy. The chance of miscarriage is very small. But you may have some bleeding from a biopsy.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • You may want to take a pain reliever 30 to 60 minutes before the test. This can help reduce any cramping pain from a biopsy. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) is a good choice.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.

At the doctor's office

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The procedure will take about 15 to 30 minutes.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N867 in the search box to learn more about "Colposcopy: Before Your Procedure".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.