Is It Safe to Get Pregnant After a LEEP Procedure?

The 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

LEEP is an acronym that's used to describe something called a "loop electrosurgical excision procedure," a procedure that's done to treat persistent, low-grade and high-grade cervical dysplasia. 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 hospitals or in the doctor's office.

Is It Safe to Get Pregnant 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. How does a LEEP really affect pregnancy? Are LEEP procedures responsible for miscarriages and preterm births?

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 a woman's 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.
  • Cervical Stenosis. This refers to the tightening and narrowing of the cervix. This can make it difficult for the cervix to dilate during labor.
  • Infertility. Although it's extremely rare, a LEEP may cause a woman to become infertile. However, research on LEEP and fertility is very limited.

The ways in which a future pregnancy will be affected by a LEEP depends on how much cervical tissue has been removed and whether this particular procedure or any other cervical surgery has been previously performed.

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.

Questions for Your Doctor

There are several questions that you should ask your doctor about LEEP if you plan on becoming pregnant. Consider asking the following:

  • 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 the pregnancy.

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