Colposcopy Explained

July 16, 2023
Lisa P. Otey, MD


Colposcopy is a procedure which allows a doctor to examine the vagina and cervix through a tiny light bearing telescope. Magnification can be as great as 60 times, bringing features which cannot usually be seen into view. This article will explain the reasons why a colposcopy may be needed, the method by which the procedure is undertaken, and what you should expect before, during and after the colposcopy. Your Houston OBGYN can perform this procedure in the office with a same day appointment.

Why colposcopy?

If you have had a Pap test which has shown unusual changes to the cells in your cervix, a colposcopy may be recommended by your Houston Gynecologist in order to allow her to investigate further. Additionally, this procedure may be used to investigate such conditions as cervicitis, polyps and genital warts on the cervix. If you are suffering from pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding, a colposcopy examination will be an extremely useful method for your doctor to use in order to diagnose your problem.

What happens?

The colposcopy will be performed either at the doctor’s office or at a specialist clinic to which you may be referred. You will be asked not to use tampons or vaginal medication, douche or have sexual intercourse in the twenty-four hour period leading up to the examination. Furthermore, a date will be chosen for the procedure which does not coincide with your period, since this will enable the doctor to get a less obstructed view of the cervix.

The patient lies on her back with her legs raised and supported, while a speculum is used to hold the vagina open to allow the cervix to be seen; the colposcope will be just outside the opening. A solution to assist the viewing of abnormal regions will be place on the cervix with a soft swab and a slight burning sensation may be experienced.


If the doctor finds regions which appear abnormal or unusual during the colposcopy, she may decide to perform a biopsy. This involves the removal of a tiny sample of the abnormal tissue using a specialized instrument. Another device may also be used to take a sample from the inner walls of the cervix. The cells which are removed are then analyzed in the laboratory.

Biopsy results

In the event that your doctor has found cause to perform a biopsy, you will be called in to discuss the results of the test when they have been completed by the lab. You may need to return for further monitoring or require more treatment if your doctor so advises. In many cases this will simply be to verify that you are in fact responding to any medication you may have been prescribed.

The recovery period

In cases where the colposcopy has been performed without the need for the doctor to take a biopsy, the chances are that you will be absolutely fine immediately. You may well experience a small amount of spotting in the next forty-eight hours or so after the procedure, but nothing more than this. You will be able to carry on your life as usual without any disruption to your regular routine or activities.

On the other hand, if a biopsy was taken during the colposcopy examination, it is quite likely that you will experience a certain amount of soreness of the vagina in the period immediately following the examination. This should only last for one or two days and can often be accompanied by some bleeding from the vagina or, if you have been given medication to help reduce bleeding from the area where the biopsy was taken from, a somewhat darker discharge. This might necessitate the use of a sanitary towel whilst the discharge or bleeding persists.

Depending on the amount of tissue removed and the condition of the biopsy site, your doctor may recommend that you modify your routine for a short while. During the period of time that the cervix will require to heal properly, you will most likely be advised not to have sexual intercourse, to use sanitary towels instead of tampons if necessary, and not to douche.
It is essential that you contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms in the period immediately after your colposcopy and biopsy:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • High temperature / fever
  • Extreme vaginal bleeding—if you have to change your towel many times a day
  • Chills

A final word…

The Pap test is an effective method of revealing changes in the cervix which could potentially turn out to be cancerous. The colposcopy will allow your physician to obtain more information about any condition which is suspected. Take the opportunity to discuss the results of the biopsy with your Houston Gynecologist —the more you know about any condition that you have, the easier it will be for you to manage.

Contact us by phone or web to make a same day appointment to discuss your specific needs. We’re always happy to hear from you!