A colposcopy examination is done when a pap smear comes back abnormal. The purpose of the exam is to use a colposcope, which is similar to a microscope, to check for precancerous skin cells in the cervix that may be caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Having the procedure done for the very first time can be nerve wracking, as many individuals do not know what to expect. Is a colposcopy examination painful though? Here is what you should know about the level of discomfort, based on my own personal experience.
Discomfort During a Colposcopy Exam
The doctor will have the patient lay on the examination table with her legs in stirrups. A speculum will be inserted. This is the same thing that happens during a pap smear, but the speculum will not be removed until the examination is over. Some women may find this uncomfortable or even slightly painful, while others may not be bothered by it at all.
A vinegar solution is generally sprayed on the cervix. While this is likely to feel very cold and may cause some stinging, it generally does not cause any pain. There are some instances in which an iodine solution may also be applied, but this also should not be painful. The vinegar and iodine solutions are used to detect abnormal skin cells.
Level of Pain During a Biopsy
If the gynecologist who is performing the colposcopy exam notices any skin cells which appear to be abnormal, he or she will take a cervical biopsy. This involves removing the skin. When I had a colposcopy examination done, this is the only time during the procedure when I experienced slight discomfort. It felt like a mild pinch which is followed by slight cramping. Some people may only need to have one sample of skin removed for a biopsy, while others may need to have several areas removed.
Bleeding After a Biopsy
It is perfectly normal for a woman to experience bleeding and mild cramps for three to five days after she has had a biopsy during a colposcopy procedure. Note that blood will be very dark due to a paste which the doctor will apply. The doctor will generally provide you with a sanitary napkin when you are finished, but you may want to bring one with you just in case. If bleeding is very heavy or cramping is severe, seek emergency care. Sexual intercourse and tampons should be avoided for at least 24 hours after a biopsy has been done.
Preparing For a Colposcopy
The doctor’s office will generally offer you Ibuprofen to prevent you from experiencing any pain during the procedure. It is best to bring your own in case you are not offered anyone. This is about the only thing that you can do to increase your level of comfort during the examination, aside from asking the doctor to let you know exactly what is going to happen beforehand.
Keep in mind that everyone has their own level of pain tolerance. What may be painful or uncomfortable for one person may not cause any discomfort to another. While the procedure is not the most comfortable experience, it should not be extremely painful.
Rutgers University Health Services, “Colposcopy.”
New York State Department of Health, “Colposcopy.”