Is Discharge After Colposcopy Normal?

When your doctor is concerned about an abnormal Pap smear or other symptoms of illness of the vagina, cervix or vulva, he may perform a colposcopy. Through the use of an instrument called colposcope, your doctor will get a better view, because it magnifies and directs light on the area of concern. The procedure also allows your doctor to take a biopsy, which can be vital in the early detection of cancer. Discharge after colposcopy exams may occur, which may be normal or an indication of infection, based on appearance and other factors.

Is the Discharge Normal?

Almost every woman who undergoes a colposcopy, especially when accompanied by a biopsy of the cervix, will experience some type of discharge. The amount varies, with anything from a panty liner to a standard size sanitary napkin needed to catch the discharge. The discharge will differ in smell, consistency and color from one person to the next.

Often, the discharge will be very dark, appearing dark brown, black or dark red. It may have grainy texture, resembling coffee grounds. For others, it may be fleshier, looking like human skin or tissue mixed with blood. Both appearances are normal.

Sometimes the appearance of the discharge looks so much like tissue, a woman might think she just had a miscarriage. If you mistake your discharge for this, do not be alarmed as it is a common error.

What Causes Discharge after Colposcopy?

Monsel’s Solution, a medical paste, is used on the biopsy site to stop it from bleeding. The paste looks a lot like toothpaste and is a dull yellow in appearance. Because of its consistency, it resembles human skin or tissue with a skin-like or yellow color. However, the paste can also change to a dark color with a grainy texture.

Do not fret if your discharge has an odd smell that is similar to vinegar or acidy. Often, a doctor will swap the area of concern with a solution made of vinegar so abnormal tissues turn white and stand out. The smell usually dissipates after a couple of days. However, if it remains or becomes foul smelling, call your doctor or a medical professional right away as it may indicate an infection.

When to Worry

There are other symptoms that can indicate there may be a problem. Call your doctor if you are experiencing any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4 F or higher degrees
  • Severe cramps that do not dissipate with over-the-counter medication for pain
  • Heavy bleeding that causes you to use a sanitary napkin every hour
  • Bright red vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting that lasts more than a week
  • Shakes or chills

Chances of infection due to a colposcopy which has been accompanied by a cervical biopsy are low, but a determining factor is how well you follow your doctor's after care instructions. Your doctor will advise you to avoid:

  • Using tampons
  • Sex for one to three weeks, which may vary so follow doctor's directions
  • Douching or intravaginal washes
  • Intravaginal lubricants or creams

Will There Be Any Other Risks Involved?

Like any medical procedure, there are some risks involved. However, if a colposcopy is done only to get a magnified look while a Pap smear is being performed, the risk is very low. Risks are higher, even though infrequent, when a cervical biopsy is performed with the colposcopy.

In either case, discharge after colposcopy exams is normal. However, other complications exist, such as:

  • Bleeding, though usually not a concern, can occur if a biopsy is conducted. Extended bleeding lasting over a week or heavy bleeding requiring you to change your sanitary napkin every hour should be reported right away to your doctor. Lifting heaving objects can increase your chances of irregular bleeding.
  • Irritation of the vagina, resulting from the vinegar mixture applied on the cervical tissue to spot abnormal tissue by turning it white.
  • Allergies to iodine, epinephrine or lidocaine used during the biopsy to clean and numb area, as well latex on medical gloves. If you know you have an allergy to any of these things, let your doctor know before the procedure so adjustments can be made. These medications may affect appearance or smell of discharge after colposcopy procedures.
  • Though infrequent, an infection may develop if a cervical biopsy is performed with a colposcopy. You can reduce the chances of this occurring by avoiding tampons, sex, douching or other intravaginal washes and lubricants. Take a shower instead of a bath. Your doctor will give you specific instructions and restriction timelines.
  • The most common risk, though unusual, is a false negative test result. Sometimes a colposcopy or biopsy will show that everything is normal, even if there is a tissue abnormality. Make sure to keep your follow-up appointments, so your doctor can monitor the situation. Again, a false negative result or missed abnormal tissue is rare with only two percent of women developing severe changes or stage 2 cancer of the cervix in a three-year time period after a colposcopy.
  • There is a small risk of preterm labor if you have a colposcopy and/or biopsy during pregnancy. Make sure you tell your doctor if you are pregnant. He will explain any risks related to the procedure, as well as complications in treatment by delaying any tests to determine possible cervical diseases.

Depending on your specific condition, there may be additional areas of concern. Speak with your doctor about possible risks and complications before having the procedure.

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