Can You Get a Colposcopy During Your Period?

A Colposcopy Allows a Doctor to Examine the Cervix More Closely

Doctor obtaining cervical smear
A doctor examines a female patient. ADAM GAULT/SPL/Getty Images

Imagine your doctor scheduled you for a colposcopy exam during the time that you will likely be having your menstrual period. Should you reschedule or can the doctor do a colposcopy while you are having your period?

This is a common question, so don't fret—let's get to the bottom of this concern. 

What is a Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a means of more closely examining a woman's cervix. During a colposcopy, a doctor will first use a speculum to hold the walls of the vagina open (exactly what occurs during a routine pelvic examination).

Then, the doctor will use an instrument called a colposcope, which is placed just outside the vagina.

As a magnifying device, the colposcope contains a light that is shined into the vagina and onto the cervix. A weak solution of acetic acid is also applied to the cervix using a cotton swab, which allows the doctor to detect abnormal cells. Sometimes this part causes mild burning. 

Typically a colposcopy is performed if a woman is found to have abnormal cells on her pap smear. During a colposcopy, the doctor may take a cervical biopsy (a small tissue sample that can be examined under a microscope to determine if an abnormal area of the cervix is benign, pre- cancerous, or cancerous).

Your doctor may also recommend a colposcopy if she finds that you have an inflamed cervix, genital warts, growths on your cervix, or any symptoms that may be suspicious for cervical cancer like abnormal pain or bleeding.

Can You Undergo A Colposcopy During Your Period?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Cancer Society, it is best that a colposcopy is done when a woman is not having her menstrual period. The reason being is that it allows the doctor to better examine the cervix.

That being said, if you are at the very end or very beginning of your cycle or are just not sure whether you should have the exam, it is best to call your doctor's office. They can give you the best advice on whether you should reschedule your appointment or not.

In addition, it's useful to know that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also recommends that a woman does not douche, use tampons or vaginal medications, or have sexual intercourse for at least 24 hours before the colposcopy.

A Word From Verywell

If your doctor schedules you for a colposcopy, it's important you undergo it. Remember, the pap smear is just a screening test—a colposcopy with a biopsy is needed to determine whether cervical cancer is present. 

Sources:

American Cancer Society. (December 2016). Tests for Cervical Cancer

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (April 2015). Colposcopy

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