Vaginal Discharge After Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

What's normal and what's a sign of infection?

Woman and Doctor
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An unpleasant discharge after a colposcopy and cervical biopsy procedure is to be expected. The appearance of the vaginal discharge, however, varies from woman to woman. Some women need only a panty liner after the procedure, while others may need to use a sanitary napkin. Color, smell, and consistency of the discharge also can vary.

A very dark discharge is also completely normal. It can often look black, dark brown, or even dark red and have a grainy consistency, much like coffee grounds.

You may also experience a more unsightly discharge that looks a lot like raw chicken skin or human tissue with blood mixed in. Again, this is normal after having a colposcopy.

Some women have even erroneously assumed that they were pregnant and had a miscarriage because of how the discharge looked. These are common misconceptions, so don't worry if you felt this way.

Why Would I Need Either Procedure?

A colposcopy is a medical procedure that's performed to examine the cervix more closely. A vinegar solution is applied to the cervix, which makes abnormal cells turn white. (This color makes those particular cells easier for your doctor to spot.) A cervical biopsy is a procedure that's done to remove tissue from the cervix, so it can be tested to see if it is precancerous or cancerous. 

What Causes the Abnormal Discharge?

The cause of the dark and skin-toned discharge after a colposcopy and cervical biopsy is a paste called Monsel's Solution, which is applied to the cervix to stop bleeding after a biopsy.

It has the consistency of toothpaste and is mustard-colored. When it is expelled from the vagina, it can become black and grainy. It may also appear yellow or skin-toned and, because of its thickness, it can look like human tissue.

It is also common for the discharge to have an acidic or vinegary smell.

During the colposcopy, your doctor applied a vinegar solution to your cervix to help identify any abnormal tissue. It should go away in a day or two. If it does not go away, becomes worse, or smells infectious or foul, contact your doctor immediately, as it may be a sign of infection.

Signs That Are Cause for Concern

Call your doctor immediately if you experience the following:

  • heavy bleeding (bleeding through a sanitary pad every hour)
  • fever (100.4 degrees or higher)
  • chills or shakes
  • spotting/vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than seven days
  • severe cramping or pain that is not relieved with over-the-counter pain medication, like Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen)
  • bright red bleeding

The risk of infection and complications after a colposcopy and biopsy are relatively low, provided you follow your doctor's instructions after the procedure. After a colposcopy and biopsy, most doctors recommend avoiding:

  • sex for a specific amount of time
  • tampons
  • douching
  • putting anything like creams or lubricants into the vagina

A Word From Verywell

As long as you follow your doctor's recommendations, this unsightly discharge after a colposcopy and a cervical biopsy should clear up within a couple of days. But do call your doctor if you're experiencing any of the possible signs of infection above.

Another tidbit: Don't assume that your cervical biopsy results are normal if you do not hear back from your doctor. Be sure to follow up with a phone call for your test results and ask if and when you need to return for a visit. 

Sources:

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Colposcopy. 2015.

Feltmate CM, Feldman S. (April 2016). Patient education: Colposcopy (Beyond the Basics). In: UpToDate, Mann WJ (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. 

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