What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is performed when a woman has had abnormal pap smears. Pap smears are advised in all woman in New Zealand with the aim of preventing cervical cancer.

How is it the procedure performed?

A speculum is placed in the vagina, and the cervix visualised using a colposcope. This gives the gynaecologist a magnified view of the cervix.

The cervix is then coated with an acetic acid and/or iodine solution to highlight any potential abnormal areas. A targeted biopsy is taken and sent the labaratory for analysis.

Sometimes no further treatment is required. Some woman will require a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ), which is where the abnormal area of the cervix is removed. This tissue generally measures 5-10mm in size.

A LLETZ is performed as a separate procedure, normally under local anaesthetic, but occasionally under general anaesthetic.

Further reading

Further information


Bleeding after sex

Post-coital bleeding usually occurs within 24 hours of intercourse. In most cases it is nothing to worry about, but should be investigated if persistent or if you are concerned. Common causes are cervical polyps and cervical ectropion. An uncommon cause is cervical cancer. Find out more

Bleeding between periods

This is quite common, and if you experience just a single episode you need not be overly concerned. Common causes are oral contraceptives and other hormonal therapies. Persistent bleeding may be caused by genital tract infections, polyps within the uterus or cervix, or possibly cervical cancer. Find out more


Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is cancer that forms in a woman's cervix, at the lower part of the uterus. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus which also causes genital warts. There are many different types of HPV virus, and only a few are linked to the development of cervical cancer. Find out more