Perhaps your pap smear came back abnormal, or maybe your gynecologist sees something during a pelvic exam that needs a closer examination. Either way, it is likely the doctor will recommend that you have a colposcopy.
A colposcopy can sound like a scary thing and many women who learn they have to have one find themselves concerned and worried about the whole ordeal. Yet, a colposcopy is not an extreme procedure, it is non-invasive, and is merely a way for your doctor to get a better look at your cervix by using a colposcope and possibly contrast die to give better visibility of the cervical cells.
How Do You Prepare for a Colposcopy?
In most cases, the only requirement to prepare will be that you do not do anything that could affect your cervix for 24 hours before the procedure. This means you should avoid sexual intercourse, douching, and using any vaginally inserted medications or creams. Additionally, it is best if you don't have the procedure done while you are menstruating.
What Should You Expect During the Procedure?
If you didn't know any better, you would think the colposcopy is just another pelvic exam or pap smear. You will be asked to undress from the waist down, lay on the exam table, and place your feet in the stirrups. Just like with a pap, a speculum will be inserted into the vaginal opening to spread apart the inner walls of your vagina so the doctor can get a clearer view of the cervix.
The colposcope is a small magnifying camera that feeds imagery to a screen that will be close to the doctor to give them a good view of the cervix and the cells that are being examined. In some cases, the doctor will push contrasting dye into your body around the cervix. If there are abnormal cells, the contrasting dye will cause these cells to illuminate. In the event the gynecologist determines a biopsy should be done for laboratory analysis, the tissue samples will be taken during the procedure.
Does a Colposcopy Hurt?
For most women, the colposcopy is not a painful procedure. Just like with a pap, you may have some discomfort or feel some pressure when the speculum is opened up. If contrasting dye is used, it can cause a bit of a warm or burning sensation, but nothing too painful. If you do have to have a biopsy, the doctor will usually use local anesthetics to numb the areas where tissue samples are harvested.
What Happens After a Colposcopy?
Once the colposcopy is complete, the doctor will go over their findings with you and give you an idea of any ongoing plans of treatment. For most patients, the colposcopy does prove there is nothing wrong that needs further attention. You may experience some pain and tenderness if you had a biopsy, but not normally with just the colposcopy. Some women do bleed a little after the procedure, which is normal after pelvic exams. If a biopsy was performed, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the results to come back.
Even though finding out you need a colposcopy can be a little scary, this procedure is really nothing to fear. Reach out to Plaza OB/GYN for further information about colposcopy procedures and to schedule an appointment to get started with proper diagnosis and a treatment plan for your issues.