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Colposcopy FAQs

On this page, we answer some common questions about colposcopy. 

You may have found out you are pregnant between having cervical screening (a smear test) and getting your results. If this happens and you have been invited to colposcopy, it's best to speak with your GP. 

They will usually recommend you still go to colposcopy so an expert (called a colposcopist) can have a closer look at your cervix and do more tests if needed. 

Read more about colposcopy > 

Colposcopy will not put your pregnancy at risk. If you are invited to colposcopy, tell your colposcopist you are pregnant, just in case they don’t know.

Different hospitals and colposcopists may recommend different things to do or not do before your appointment. If you are unsure, it's best to speak with the hospital where your appointment is.

Yes, you can bring someone to your colposcopy appointment for support. They can be with you in the waiting room and examination room. Many people find bringing someone with them really helpful. 

You may also find it useful to prepare and bring a list of questions with you, in case you feel anxious or overwhelmed on the day.

If you are feeling nervous, remember we are here to support you too.

Get support >

The experts who do your colposcopy examination and any treatment are called colposcopists. They sometimes go by a different title, like nurse colposcopist or colposcopy nurse specialist.

Every colposcopist and nurse colposcopist has the same training. They sometimes go by different titles because of their background:

  • A colposcopist – Some colposcopists have completed medical training and gone on to do colposcopy training. They may be any grade of hospital doctor, from a junior doctor to a consultant, or a GP with a specialist interest in colposcopy. 
  • A nurse colposcopist or colposcopy nurse specialist – Some colposcopists are registered nurses who have completed nursing training and gone on to do colposcopy training. 

You may also meet a nurse (sometimes called a colposcopy nurse), who assists during your appointment. They do not do the examination or treatment.

After your colposcopy examination, your colposcopist will try to give you as much information as they can. But they will usually need to get the results of a biopsy before you get your full results. 

Remember, most people who go to colposcopy do not have cervical cancer. If you have any questions or worries, there is time before and after your colposcopy examination to talk about these.

Read more about what happens at colposcopy > 

During colposcopy, a small piece of cervical tissue may be taken. This is called a punch biopsy. 


The sample of cervical tissue is sent to a laboratory to test:

  • whether there are cell changes (abnormal cells)
  • what type of cell changes there are
  • how advanced any cell changes are.

Sometimes, your colposcopist will take more than one punch biopsy. This makes sure the results are as accurate as possible.

Read more about what happens at colposcopy >

Everyone’s experience of a punch biopsy is different. Some people do not feel anything, while others find it uncomfortable. It may feel tender or ache during and after the biopsy. 

Remember, you are in control during colposcopy, so let your colposcopist know if it hurts. They will be able to give you the right support.

If you have a biopsy at colposcopy, you may have some side effects, including:

  • cramps, like period pains
  • some light bleeding 
  • changes to vaginal discharge. 

These side effects may last for a few days, but shouldn’t last very long or get worse. If any effects do get worse, tell your colposcopist or GP. 

Read more about colposcopy > 

If you were treated at colposcopy, you may have different effects depending on the treatment you had. Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) is the most common treatment.

Read more about LLETZ and possible side effects >

Not everyone invited to colposcopy:

  • needs treatment
  • has it at their first appointment – it may be done at a future appointment.

If you do need treatment, your colposcopist will tell you whether it will happen at your first appointment or whether you will be invited back. 

It may take 4 to 8 weeks to get colposcopy results. Your doctor (colposcopist) usually sends a letter with your results. If your results take longer than this, you can call the hospital or your colposcopist to check on them.

If your colposcopist thinks you may have cervical cancer, you may be offered a telephone call or be invited to the colposcopy clinic within 2 to 3 weeks to get your results.

Read more about getting colposcopy results >

Waiting for results can be a really anxious time, but remember we are here if you need any support.

Get support >

Cervical screening does not diagnose cell changes (abnormal cells). It is a snapshot of cervical cells that suggest whether you need further tests. 

Your colposcopy will usually look at a piece of your cervical tissue (taken by biopsy or treatment). It is a much more detailed look at your cervix. This means your colposcopy result may be different to your cervical screening result. Not everyone referred to colposcopy after cervical screening:

  • has cell changes
  • has the type or grade of cell changes their cervical screening result suggested. 

Read more about colposcopy results > 

No. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN) means you have cell changes (abnormal cells) on your cervix. These changes are not cancer but, without monitoring or treatment, they may develop into cervical cancer.

Read more about CIN and CGIN > 

If and when you have a follow-up appointment after colposcopy depends on:

  • your colposcopy results
  • whether you had treatment (at your first appointment or a further appointment).

Your colposcopist, or the hospital you had colposcopy at, should be able to tell you about any follow-up appointments.

If your colposcopy results show no cell changes (abnormal cells)

If your colposcopy results show no cell changes, you do not need any further appointments. You will be invited back for cervical screening (a smear test) in 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.

If your colposcopy results show low-grade cell changes 

If your colposcopy results show low-grade cell changes (also called CIN1), there are a few different options:

  • Your colposcopist may look at your individual situation and recommend you do not need treatment. This is because it is unlikely that CIN1 will develop into cervical cancer – often, the cells go back to normal on their own. This is called conservative management.
  • Your colposcopist may look at your individual situation and recommend you do have treatment.

If you have CIN2, your colposcopist may also look at all these options. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with them so they can explain their recommendation.

Read more about CIN and CGIN >

If your colposcopy results show you need treatment

If your colposcopy results show you need treatment, you will usually have a further appointment within 4 to 6 weeks.

Read more about colposcopy results > 

If you had treatment, you will usually have a follow-up appointment about 6 months after. 

Read more about follow-up after treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells) > 

Colposcopy is a further examination and test where an expert (colposcopist) takes a closer look at your cervix. It helps them understand whether you need monitoring or treatment. 

If you need treatment, that is also done at colposcopy. Treatment may be done:

  • at your first appointment
  • you may be invited back for a further appointment.   

Read more about colposcopy > 

Sometimes, a biopsy or treatment you have at colposcopy can cause bleeding or changes to your vaginal discharge. If this happens, it is best to wait until this has stopped before you have vaginal penetrative sex. This includes:

  • vaginal sex – for example, being penetrated by a penis, dildo or other object
  • fingering (having fingers inside your vagina)
  • oral sex (having a tongue inside your vagina).

The general rule is don’t put anything in your vagina while you have any side effects. If you want to have anal sex or clitoral stimulation, this shouldn’t make any side effects worse. 

If you are worried or have specific questions, it is best to speak to your colposcopist or GP, who knows your full medical history. 

The main purpose of colposcopy is just to take a closer look at your cervix and, like at cervical screening, you are in control at all times. Like any appointment, it is your choice whether to go to colposcopy. Remember, you wouldn’t have been invited to colposcopy unless healthcare professionals thought it was needed. 

If you are worried about colposcopy or have any questions, speak with your GP, the hospital where you have been referred, or to us. We are always here, over the phone or online, to help:

After colposcopy, it is important to listen to your body and take any time you need to rest. Remember, we all heal at different rates, so what feels right for someone else may not be right for you.

If you have had a biopsy, you may feel okay to do your usual exercise straight away. 

If you have had treatment, you may take a little longer to heal, but you can exercise as soon as you feel ready. Any side effects usually last for about 4 weeks, so you may want to avoid heavy exercise during that time. If you do exercise, any bleeding may get a little heavier after. 

Read about side effects of treatment for cell changes > 

If you have any worries or want to ask about a specific exercise, speak with your GP, who knows your full medical history.

More questions?

If you have questions or concerns about cervical screening, get a confidential response from a medical professional.

Ask the Expert

Cell changes >

Read about what cell changes are and how they are monitored or treated.

Date last updated: 
01 Jul 2019
Date due for review: 
27 May 2022

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