ExitCare ImageColposcopy is a procedure to examine your cervix and vagina, or the area around the outside of your vagina, for abnormalities or signs of disease. The procedure is done using a lighted microscope called a colposcope. Tissue samples may be collected during the colposcopy if your health care provider finds any unusual cells. A colposcopy may be done if a woman has:

  • An abnormal Pap test. A Pap test is a medical test done to evaluate cells that are on the surface of the cervix.

  • A Pap test result that is suggestive of human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can cause genital warts and is linked to the development of cervical cancer.

  • A sore on her cervix and the results of a Pap test were normal.

  • Genital warts on the cervix or in or around the outside of the vagina.

  • A mother who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant.

  • Painful intercourse.

  • Vaginal bleeding, especially after sexual intercourse.


  • Any allergies you have.

  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.

  • Previous problems you or members of your family have had with the use of anesthetics.

  • Any blood disorders you have.

  • Previous surgeries you have had.

  • Medical conditions you have.


Generally, a colposcopy is a safe procedure. However, as with any procedure, complications can occur. Possible complications include:

  • Bleeding.

  • Infection.

  • Missed lesions.


  • Tell your health care provider if you have your menstrual period. A colposcopy typically is not done during menstruation.

  • For 24 hours before the colposcopy, do not:

  • Douche.

  • Use tampons.

  • Use medicines, creams, or suppositories in the vagina.

  • Have sexual intercourse.


During the procedure, you will be lying on your back with your feet in foot rests (stirrups). A warm metal or plastic instrument (speculum) will be placed in your vagina to keep it open and to allow the health care provider to see the cervix. The colposcope will be placed outside the vagina. It will be used to magnify and examine the cervix, vagina, and the area around the outside of the vagina. A small amount of liquid solution will be placed on the area that is to be viewed. This solution will make it easier to see the abnormal cells. Your health care provider will use tools to suck out mucus and cells from the canal of the cervix. Then he or she will record the location of the abnormal areas.

If a biopsy is done during the procedure, a medicine will usually be given to numb the area (local anesthetic). You may feel mild pain or cramping while the biopsy is done. After the procedure, tissue samples collected during the biopsy will be sent to a lab for analysis.


You will be given instructions on when to follow up with your health care provider for your test results. It is important to keep your appointment.