Cervical ectropion happens when cells that line the inside of your cervix grow on the outside. These cells are redder and are more sensitive than the cells typically on the outside, which is why they may cause symptoms, like bleeding and discharge, for some women.
The condition is sometimes called cervical eversion, ectropy, or erosion. It’s fairly common in women who are in their childbearing years, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. It’s not a sign of another health problem, like cervical cancer. But if you have symptoms that bother you, there are treatments your doctor can try.
Risk Factors and Causes
You may have been born with cervical ectropion. Or you may develop it later in life, most likely when your hormone levels change and estrogen levels go up, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or when you take birth control pills.
A few studies have found that women who have the STD chlamydia may be more likely to have cervical ectropion, but there hasn’t been enough research to prove that link.
Many women with cervical ectropion don’t have symptoms. But some will have:
- Vaginal discharge, sometimes with streaks of blood
- Bleeding or spotting during or after sex (as long as 12 hours afterward)
- Pain during or after sex
Your doctor may find you have cervical ectropion after they look at your cervix with a tool called a speculum. Cervical ectropion looks much redder than a typical cervix.
But it’s important to rule out more serious conditions like cervical cancer or STDs that may look similar. Your doctor may want to do a Pap test and check for infections with a swab. They may use a tool with a bright light, called a colposcope, so they can see your cervix better. They may decide to take a sample of tissue from the area to check it for abnormal cells.
Most women don’t need any treatment for cervical ectropion. If you have symptoms that started during pregnancy, they should go away 3 to 6 months after you have your baby. If you think birth control pills are causing your symptoms, you can change to another form of birth control to see if that helps.
But if symptoms bother you and you want treatment, your doctor can use a few different approaches:
Diathermy. Your doctor uses a small tool to apply high heat to the cells causing your symptoms, which burns and seals them off. You’ll probably get medicine to numb the area first.
Cryotherapy. Also called cryosurgery, a doctor uses a probe to freeze the cells on the cervix and stop your symptoms. You’ll be awake during the procedure and probably won’t need any pain medicine. Research has found this procedure works well for women with a lot of discharge from cervical ectropion.
Silver nitrate. Your doctor applies this chemical to the cervix to seal off the cells causing bleeding. You probably won’t need any numbing medicine beforehand.
After any of these treatments, you may feel some mild pain like period cramps and have some light bleeding or discharge. If the pain becomes severe or the bleeding heavy, call your doctor.
Don’t use tampons or have sex for about 4 weeks, until your cervix has healed. Your doctor’s office will give you any other specific instructions for what to do. Schedule any follow-up visits that your doctor recommends.