How Long To Wait To Have Sex After a Colposcopy

The Answer Depends on Whether a Cervical Biopsy was Performed

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I had a colposcopy yesterday and was wondering how long I need to wait before having sex. Can I have sex if I had the procedure yesterday? If not, what could happen if I do?

What is a Colposcopy?

When Pap smear results yield abnormal results, it is important to further examine the cervix. The best way for gynecologists to accomplish this task is by performing an exam called a colposcopy. For those who are unfamiliar with a colposcopy, it is an examination of the cervix with the aid of a medical instrument called a colposcope.

A colposcope allows the doctor to thoroughly examine the vagina, vulva, and cervix by magnifying whatever is in the scope's field of vision. It is much like a microscope but specially crafted for gynecologic uses. A colposcopy is non-invasive and the scope remains outside of the vagina during the entire exam.

Most women find a colposcopy to be completely painless and only as uncomfortable as a routine Pap smear. It is an extremely common exam, and when paired with a cervical biopsy, it is a critical diagnostic tool for cervical conditions such as cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.

Sex After a Colposcopy

How long you wait after having a colposcopy depends on whether your doctor also performed a cervical biopsy during the exam. During a colposcopy, an iodine solution or vinegar solution called acetic acid is applied to the cervix with a long cotton swab. Abnormal cells absorb the solution and react by turning brown or white after the solution is applied.

If your doctor did not see anything abnormal after applying the acetic acid or iodine, he or she may have found it unnecessary to biopsy the cervix.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, if you did not have a cervical biopsy during your colposcopy, you can resume normal activities.

But if your doctor did decide to perform a cervical biopsy during the exam, you definitely have to wait a little bit longer before you have sex—for 48 hours up to one week (sometimes longer depending on factors like the type of biopsy you had). Your doctor will also advise you to avoid using tampons or douching for a short time. This gives your cervix time to heal. 

A biopsy involves removing samples of tissue from the cervix to be further examined by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases by microscopically examining tissue and bodily fluids. While not painful, you would be well aware if you had a cervical biopsy done during your exam. It's not something your doctor could perform without your knowledge because it does cause a degree of discomfort.

If you do decide to have sex after having a cervical biopsy, you increase the likelihood of cervical bleeding, pelvic cramping, and infection. It is best to wait for the time your doctor recommended to reduce the risk of these complications.

A Word From Verywell

In addition to following your doctor's instructions on having sex and engaging in other activities after a colposcopy (with or without a cervical biopsy), it is also important to contact your doctor right away if you experience heavy bleeding, fever, or severe abdominal or pelvic pain after the procedure.


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

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