This test uses a microscope called a colposcope to look closely at your cervix. You usually have it done at a hospital outpatient clinic.
A specialist doctor or nurse will do the colposcopy. To get ready for the test you undress from the waist down. You then lie on your back on an examination couch. Some clinics have ones with foot or leg supports you can rest your legs up on. You will be asked to lie with your knees bent and apart. The doctor or nurse puts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. This holds the vagina open so that they can see your cervix. They put a liquid on the cervix to show any abnormal areas. They then shine a light onto the cervix and look at it through the colposcope. The colposcope is on a stand outside your body, between your legs or feet.
The doctor or nurse may take a small sample of cells from the cervix (a biopsy). These will be sent to a laboratory to be looked at.
A colposcopy takes 15 to 20 minutes. It is not usually painful, but if a biopsy is taken you may feel some discomfort. The biopsy can cause slight bleeding and you may have some vaginal bleeding for up to two weeks. You may be advised not to have penetrative sex, use tampons or go swimming for a few days after a biopsy. This is to reduce the risk of infection and to give your cervix time to heal.