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A colposcopy is a test performed by a gynecologist to examine the cervix and vagina of a woman who has had a Pap smear with abnormal results. Whenever a medical procedure is performed, there is a chance of some side effects. Common colposcopy side effects include discharge and light vaginal bleeding. Rare but potentially dangerous colposcopy side effects include fever and infection. Both cervical cancer and genital warts can be diagnosed using the results of a colposcopy.
One of the most normal colposcopy side effects is minor vaginal bleeding. This bleeding should be lighter than a typical menstrual period. If a biopsy is performed during the colposcopy, this bleeding will come from the site of the biopsy. Women should wear a panty liner for a few days to avoid staining, and the bleeding should stop on its own within a few days.
Another standard colposcopy side effect is vaginal discharge. Normal vaginal discharge is usually white or clear, but vaginal discharge may be brown after a colposcopy. The brown color does not indicate an infection but is, rather, a result of a woman's normal vaginal discharge and blood mixing with a paste that is sometimes used during the procedure. As long as the discharge has no abnormal odor and clears up within a week, it should be no cause for concern.
A woman who has a fever in the days after her colposcopy may be suffering from an infection. Extremely painful pelvic and abdominal cramps also can be a sign of an infection. A patient experiencing these symptoms should contact her doctor immediately. Foul-smelling discharge also may be an indicator that an infection is present.
The chance of colposcopy side effects and post-procedure infections can be lessened by a woman's behavior after the test. Tampons should not be worn for at least a week. If a woman gets her period during this time, it is best to wear a sanitary pad instead. Women also should not have sex for at least a week after the procedure. It also is recommended that exercise be avoided for a day or two while the cervix heals.
Women also should practice caution before a colposcopy. Using a tampon or having sex the day before the test can cause inconclusive test results. Women should abstain from these activities to avoid needing to have the colposcopy performed a second time. Over-the-counter pain medications can be taken before the procedure to help reduce the chances of pain or inflammation afterward.