How Long to Wait to Have Sex After a Colposcopy

The answer depends on whether a cervical biopsy was performed

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If you just had a colposcopy, you may be wondering how long you need to wait before having sex. And if you don't, what could happen?

What Is a Colposcopy?

When a Pap smear yields 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 it's specially crafted for gynecologic use. A colposcopy is non-invasive and the scope remains outside 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.

What Is a Cervical Biopsy?

During a colposcopy, an iodine 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.

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 a biopsy is not super painful, it does cause a degree of discomfort, so 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.

Delaying 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. According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, if you did not have a cervical biopsy during your colposcopy, you can resume having sex right away. 

But if your doctor did decide to perform a cervical biopsy during the exam, you have to wait a little while before you have ​sex—usually anywhere from two days to one week (sometimes longer, depending on factors like the type of biopsy that you had). So follow whatever specific recommendation your doctor provides. Your doctor will also advise you to avoid using tampons or douching during this time. This gives your cervix time to heal. 

What Happens If You Have Sex Shortly After a Colposcopy and Biopsy

If you do decide to have sex after having a colposcopy and cervical biopsy, you increase the likelihood of cervical bleeding, pelvic cramping, and infection. It is best to wait to reduce the risk of these complications. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms and are worried that you may have an infection, call your doctor right away.

Sources:

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

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