Colposcopy is a procedure during which the surface of the cervix is closely examined using a magnifying instrument called a colposcope. The consultant that performs the procedure will check the cells on the surface of the cervix for abnormalities.

A colposcopy is usually carried out when the results of a smear test indicate there are abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. A colposcopy may also be used to investigate things such as unexplained vaginal bleeding (such as after sex), an inflamed cervix, and unexplained pelvic pain.

What happens?

During a colposcopy, you lie down in a special type of chair which has padded supports to rest your legs on. A device called a speculum is gently inserted into your vagina and opened to allow your consultant to see your cervix.

Your cervix is then examined with a colposcope. A colposcope is an instrument with a light and magnifying lens that stays outside your body and allows your consultant to see any abnormalities.

Your consultant may use some liquids to help highlight any abnormal areas of your cervix. A small sample of tissue may also be removed for further testing during a process known as a biopsy

The examination lasts about 20 minutes, but the whole appointment can take about an hour.

You should be able to go home right after having your colposcopy. It is usually a painless procedure, although some women do find it uncomfortable. If you are concerned, you could take a painkiller, such as paracetamol, beforehand. However, do not take aspirin or ibuprofen as they may increase your chance of bleeding afterwards.

What are the risks?

Colposcopy is generally a safe procedure. You may experience slight bleeding or discharge for the first few days after this procedure. If you experience any heavy bleeding, cramping or fever contact your GP.