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What happens on the day - Colposcopy

What happens during a colposcopy

A colposcopy is usually carried out in a hospital or clinic. It should usually take 15 to 20 minutes to have your colposcopy and you should be able to go home afterwards.

But you might be at the hospital for several hours from getting there to going home.

When you arrive at the hospital or clinic, you'll speak with a nurse about what's going to happen during the colposcopy.

They will ask you some questions about your general health and your medical history.

Giving consent

A nurse or doctor will explain the possible risks of having a colposcopy.

The procedure is very safe, but afterwards there is a small chance of:

  • getting a vaginal infection
  • heavy bleeding

If anything like this does happen, the healthcare team will be there to look after you.

You'll be asked to sign a consent form. This is to confirm that the procedure and the risks have been explained to you, and you agree to have the colposcopy as discussed with medical staff.

The procedure

A colposcopy is usually done by a specially trained nurse (colposcopist). Sometimes it may be done by a doctor.

Before the procedure you will be asked to remove your clothes, behind a screen, from the waist down. You may be given a sheet to cover yourself.

If you wear a loose skirt or a long jumper, you may be able to keep this on during the procedure.

You will be asked to lie down and put your legs on a padded support.


A colposcopy should not be painful, but it can sometimes feel uncomfortable. You can ask for the procedure to be stopped at any time.

What happens during a colposcopy and what it might feel like during each stage
What happens What it might feel like
A smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) is gently placed into your vagina to open it. A microscope with a light attached (colposcope) is then used to look at your cervix. The colposcope does not go inside your vagina You may feel a little uncomfortable, but you should not be in any pain
The doctor or nurse will put liquids on your cervix. These liquids help them see any abnormal cervical cells You may feel a mild tingling or stinging sensation when the liquids are used
A small tissue sample, around the size of a pin head, may be removed for testing. This is known as a biopsy You may feel a mild pinching or scratching sensation as the tissue is removed

Further treatment

If the doctor or nurse finds abnormal cells in your cervix, they may recommend removing them. This will reduce your risk of cervical cancer.

They may do this treatment on the same day as your colposcopy, or you might be asked to come back for another appointment.

LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone)

The most common way to remove abnormal cells is using a procedure called large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ).

LLETZ is often done at the same time as your colposcopy. You will not need to stay in hospital and can go home the same day.

You will first have an injection of local anaesthetic to numb your cervix so you should not feel any pain.

A heated loop of wire is then used to remove the tissue. An area of tissue about the size of a fingernail is removed. LLETZ takes around 15 minutes.

Let the doctor or nurse know if you feel any discomfort during the procedure. You may need more local anaesthetic.

If you have a coil (IUD or Mirena coil) the doctor or nurse will try not to cut the threads. But if this happens the coil can still be removed safely without the threads when needed.

Cone biopsy

If the doctor or nurse needs to remove a large piece of tissue, they may recommend a cone biopsy. This involves removing a cone-shaped section of tissue from your cervix.

You will be asked to make a follow-up appointment for this procedure.

You will be put to sleep (general anaesthetic) for the cone biopsy and for this reason you may need to spend the night in hospital afterwards.

After a colposcopy

You can often go home to rest soon after the treatment is finished.

After a colposcopy you may have some mild pain, similar to period pain, for a few days. Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol can help.

You are also likely to have some bleeding and discharge from your vagina. If you had a colposcopy only, then the bleeding and discharge may pass after a few days.

If you had a biopsy or LLETZ

If you had a biopsy or LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone) the bleeding can last longer. After LLETZ, some people have bleeding for up to 4 weeks.

If you have any bleeding, discharge and pain:

  • do not have penetrative sex or put anything inside your vagina – if you had LLETZ you may be told to avoid sex for 4 weeks
  • do not use tampons or menstrual cups, use sanitary pads instead
  • avoid activities that could make the bleeding or pain worse, such as vigorous exercise that makes you breathe hard and fast

Non-urgent advice: Contact a GP or call 111 if:

After a colposcopy you have:

  • heavy bleeding from your vagina which is more than you would expect during a heavy period
  • unpleasant smelly discharge from your vagina
  • stomach pain that does not get any better after taking painkillers or keeps coming back

Page last reviewed: 24 May 2022
Next review due: 24 May 2025