Is It Safe to Get Pregnant After a LEEP Procedure?

Risks to Be Aware of and What to Ask Your Doctor

Doctor and patient reviewing medical record in clinic lobby
Getting pregnant after LEEP. Caiaimage/Rafal Rodzoch / Getty Images

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure, commonly known as LEEP, is a procedure that's done to treat persistent, low-grade and high-grade cervical dysplasia, a precancerous condition of the cervix. A LEEP uses an electrically charged wire loop to remove cervical tissue. It's done under local anesthesia and is normally performed on an outpatient basis in a hospital or in the doctor's office.

Pregnancy After a LEEP Procedure

When faced with the prospect of undergoing a LEEP procedure, many women are concerned about how it will affect future pregnancies.

Tales of infertility, miscarriage, and preterm labor are often the first things that women hear when researching a LEEP. The fact is that having a LEEP procedure does slightly increase the potential for future pregnancy complications, but most women don't have any problems.

The Existing Risks Associated With Pregnancy After a LEEP

These are some of the risks that are associated with pregnancy after a LEEP:

  • Cervical incompetence. When your cervix is diagnosed as "incompetent," it means that the cervix is unable to stay closed during a pregnancy. Cervical incompetence can result in miscarriage and preterm labor. However, a cervical cerclage can be done to ensure that the cervix remains closed during the pregnancy. This means that the cervix is sewn closed for the duration of the pregnancy. Only a small percentage of women who have had a LEEP will require a cerclage during pregnancy.
  • MiscarriageOne recent study showed that women who became pregnant less than a year after their LEEP procedures had a higher risk of miscarriage. The good news is that the same study showed that women who were a year or more beyond their LEEP procedures had no more risk of miscarriage than any other women.
  • Cervical stenosis. This refers to the tightening and narrowing of the cervix. This can make it difficult for the cervix to dilate during labor.
  • Difficulty getting pregnant. Research on LEEP and fertility is limited, but you may have trouble getting pregnant after a LEEP procedure.

There is also about a 10 percent risk of preterm delivery that's associated with LEEP, though many women do go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies.

Bottom Line

The ways in which a future pregnancy will be affected by a LEEP depend on how much cervical tissue has been removed and whether this particular procedure or any other cervical surgery has been previously performed. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Questions for Your Doctor

There are several questions that you should ask your doctor about LEEP if you plan on becoming pregnant. They include:

  • How do you think a LEEP will affect my pregnancy?
  • Is a LEEP the only treatment option I have?
  • How long will it take for my cervix to recover?
  • When can I begin to have sex again? (The average time to wait before having sex is about four to six weeks. It may be more or less depending on how much cervical tissue needed to be removed.)
  • How long after a LEEP can I try to get pregnant?

During Pregnancy

Be sure to inform your doctor if you have had a LEEP at your first obstetric appointment. Providing your doctor with information, such as notes taken by the doctor who performed the LEEP and the associated pathology reports, will help him or her determine the best way to manage your pregnancy.

Sources:

Ciavattini, A, Clemente, N, Delli Carpini, G, et al. Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure and Risk of Miscarriage. Fertility and Sterility. April 2015;103(4):1043-1048.

Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published July 2017.

Simple Procedure Treats Cervical Cancer Early. Cleveland Clinic. Published January 23, 2014.

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