woman's hands typing on laptop in hospital environment

My Experience of Having a Colposcopy Procedure

When I mentioned to the odd person that I was referred to gynaecology for a colposcopy, they replied, “Oh you are going for a colonoscopy?” Nope – a colPOSCOPY. 

Initially, I was told it was a 35 week wait for a referral. Then, I told my GP that I was willing to go to any hospital. Shortly afterwards, I had a telephone consultation and was sent a letter in the post for a colposcopy appointment – all within 4 weeks. Getting the appointment for the right date was important because well, the main reason for my appointment was due to so much more bleeding than usual. At first, I attended but they couldn’t carry out the procedure due to heavy bleeding so I had to re-book. Then, I needed a COVID-19 test because I had coronavirus symptoms. Finally, I was able to go for my appointment at the hospital a few days after the test as the result was negative. Third time lucky kinda thing! 

Why was I sent for a colposcopy?

For around 6 months now, I’ve had irregular bleeding and dark discharge throughout my menstrual cycle. My periods have been longer and much heavier, causing me to have accidents, which I didn’t even experience at 12 years old when I had my first period! Although, I’m coming up to 3 years since I had the copper coil fitted, it is expected that periods can be heavier when you have this type of IUD. However, other signs indicated that further investigation was needed. I continue to experience a sharp pain in my left side during and after sex, a much heavier cramping sensation during my periods, and overall fatigue and weakness. Whenever I get a pain in my side, I have to wonder if it’s cervix or bowel related. Having the two combined is… very uncomfortable. The pelvic pain though is more of a constant stab feeling.

I had a scan a few years ago to see if I had polycystic ovaries – but I didn’t. More recently I had an ultrasound and they said everything was fine and nothing sinister was apparent. However, before that, I had a cervical examination and cells were found on the outside of my cervix and the area was also inflamed. During that moment, I realised that when I had my first smear, the nurse did comment that it was “slightly red” and now, “it looks quite red”. The nurse said it looks as though as I have some ectropion bleeding, also known as cervical erosion which sounds scarier than it is. As soon as she touched my cervix with a cotton swab, it bled.

Unfortunately, I am also seeing blood when I go to the toilet (when I’m lucky enough to be able to go that is) and again, I get an excruciating pain on the left of my abdomen but that’s another story to tell you once I’ve had a sigmoidoscopy.

A couple of months ago, I was prescribed iron tablets because my iron levels were very low. It’s no surprise really when I’ve lost so much blood. They don’t help the bowel issues though because they can make you more bunged up. At least they help my iron levels though. There’s always a positive eh!

How did it feel to have a colposcopy for the first time?

Having a smear, cervical examination, or getting a coil fitted, doesn’t bother me. This procedure was also fine. I lay down and was told to relax and let the padded supports take the weight of my legs and push myself forward a little further. Just a warning if you are squeamish, everything can be seen on the screen beside you. I was completely fine with it other than seeing where I was bleeding around my cervix. It got me feeling a little sad because I just wanted it to go away. But apparently, it can be such a common thing for women. 

The nurse applied a couple of different liquids to highlight if there were any abnormal areas (biopsies are also taken if they think anything might be there). Overall, the cervix looked okay other than some inflammation again, but nothing to worry about. Medicine was applied to the cells that shouldn’t have been on the outside of my cervix, so hopefully this will reduce the bleeding in-between periods. But unfortunately, they don’t think it’ll answer the longer and heavier periods. The colposcopist is sure it’s hormone related which isn’t a shock as I am currently having my thyroid investigated. All I can do is persevere for a little while longer and see what happens after further tests. 

Swabs were also taken and I was given a sanitary pad for any bleeding and discharge. During these type of procedures, I prefer to let the nurses do what they need to do and get it over and done with. Maybe I’m luckier in the sense I could be one of those people who can persevere through the twinges and slightly uncomfortable feelings inside.

I did feel some discomfort afterwards, which was mostly period-like. Once I got home, I put my pyjamas on and had a cup of tea which of course was much cosier!

They said bleeding or brown discharge can occur 3-5 days after the procedure. Update: it’s a week afterwards now and I’m still getting this, which means I’ve bled for 3 weeks. Hopefully it’ll wear off soon.

The gynaecology department at Rochdale hospital and Royal Oldham Hospital have been so lovely and have made me feel comfortable throughout the whole process. If you are referred for a colposcopy, don’t ignore it or put it off, please attend. The nurses will make you feel as comfortable as they possibly can. 

I think what scares me, is knowing what my mum went through with two of her pregnancies (one being me). But hopefully there won’t be any reason why I can’t have a healthy pregnancy in the future. It’s one of my biggest dreams to have children. Many times, I have pictured so much in my head like, looking out of the kitchen window to see them playing in the garden or all of the first-time experiences that will be like no other. It’s important to keep a positive mindset and look forward to the future though. 

More information on how to prepare for a colposcopy and what happens can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/