Preparation for a colposcopy is similar to preparing for any gynecological exam.
- You should schedule an exam when you are not menstruating.
- Avoid douching, sexual intercourse, vaginal medications, and tampons for 24 hours before the exam.
- If you are not allergic to acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol), your doctor may recommend taking some for pain 1 hour before the procedure. Aspirin or ibuprofen may also be used, but may increase bleeding from the procedure due to these drugs' anti-platelet effect.
During the Colposcopy Procedure
You will be asked to remove your undergarments, then you will lie on an examination table with your legs placed in stirrups. The procedure may last up to 30 minutes.
- Inspection: Your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina, using only water for lubrication, because lubricating jelly may interfere with the laboratory analysis of any specimens obtained. The speculum will remain in place for the duration of the exam.
- Your doctor will inspect your vagina and cervix using a magnified lens. An assistant may insert a small amount of saline solution (salt water) into the vagina to moisten the surface. The saline may feel cool.
- Immediately following the inspection, an acetic acid preparation will be applied to your cervix. The acid also may feel cool, but will not burn. The doctor then will reinspect your vagina and cervix and will decide whether to perform a biopsy (take a tissue sample).
- Special stains may be required to see certain areas in the cervix. The most common stain is an iodine solution, which may feel cool but will not hurt.
- Biopsy: If any abnormalities appear, the doctor will take a biopsy. You may feel a pinch and some discomfort for several seconds. The examiner also may perform an endocervical curettage—a gentle scraping of the cervical canal that may cause a cramping sensation. Any specimens obtained from these procedures then will be sent to a lab for examination under a microscope.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/10/2016
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Must Read Articles Related to Colposcopy
Cervical cancer can be cured if it is detected and treated early. Risk factors for cervical cancer include HPV infection, smoking, oral contraceptive use, and h...learn more >>
Cervicitis is an infection of the lower genital tract (inflammation of the cervix). Cervicitis may be caused by STD's or injuries to the cervix. Cervicitis symp...learn more >>
Genital warts (HPV) are growths in the genital area of both men and women. Genital warts are contagious and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Sympto...learn more >>