Cervical polyps are a common yet often misunderstood medical condition.
Maybe it’s because these small, usually benign growths on the cervix can vary in appearance, or perhaps it’s down to their temperamental symptoms.
While often asymptomatic, they do occasionally lead to symptoms like irregular bleeding or funky discharge.
The experience varies from woman to woman.
To help bring you some clarity, we’re delving into every aspect of cervical polyps, from their various appearances, potential seriousness, and what they mean during pregnancy.
Not to mention signs to look out for, causes, and the importance of treatment, including removal and recovery.
It’s a lot to cover—let’s get into it. 🤓
In this article: 📝
- What is a cervical polyp?
- How serious is a polyp on the cervix?
- Is cervical polyp harmful during pregnancy?
- What are the signs of cervical polyps?
- What causes cervical polyps?
- What is the best treatment for cervical polyps?
- What happens if a cervical polyp is left untreated?
What is a cervical polyp?
Cervical polyps are small, finger-like growths that emerge from the mucosal surface of the cervix—that’s the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
Also called endocervical polyps, they affect 2 to 5% of women and are often benign (non-cancerous) and may not cause any symptoms at all.
And they tend to appear most in women over the age of 20 who have had children or postmenopausal women.
There are two types:
- Ectocervical polyps: These develop on the outer layer of your cervix
- Endocervical polyps: These grow within your cervical canal.
Endometrial polyps (or uterine polyps) are the most common cervical polyps.
What does a cervical polyp look like?
Cervical polyps can vary in appearance from one person to another.
They tend to look like small, smooth, finger-like growths emerging from the cervix.
Picture a tiny, fleshy bulb or a miniature grape attached by a thin stalk or directly to the cervix’s surface.
Their size usually ranges from a few millimeters to a couple of centimeters, making them generally quite small.
As for color, they can be red, purplish, or pale gray, influenced by the blood vessels within them.
Can you feel polyps with your finger?
Feeling cervical polyps with a finger is generally unlikely—they’re often located far too high up the cervical canal for that.
Plus, their small size and soft texture make them less discernible to the touch, especially when compared to the surrounding tissue.
Really, the best way to diagnose cervical polyps is during a routine pelvic exam or vaginal speculum examination.
Even then, some smaller polyps might be missed without additional diagnostic tools like a colposcopy, which provides a magnified view of the cervix.
For most people, cervical polyps make their big reveal through symptoms like irregular bleeding or unusual discharge.
How serious is a polyp on the cervix?
Most of the time, a small polyp on the cervix is harmless, blending in without causing much fuss.
But it’s important to keep an eye on them and rule out any possibility of malignancy.
And in rare cases, large cervical polyps could block the cervical canal leading to infertility.
That’s why doctors often recommend removing them—just to be on the safe side.
Are cervical polyps cancerous?
Cervical polyps are usually benign, but a small percentage can contain precancerous cells or, rarely, cancerous cells.
And cancerous polyps are more likely to be seen in menopausal women.
Which is why removal and biopsy is so important for a definitive diagnosis.
Still, the rate of malignant cervical polyps is quite low—only 2% contain premalignant cells (aka cells associated with an increased risk of developing cancer) and 0.3% contain malignant cells within menopausal women.
The main issue tends to be annoying cervical polyp symptoms like irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding after sex, and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Is cervical polyp harmful during pregnancy?
Often, cervical polyps during pregnancy are down to an increase in the hormone estrogen, and it’s quite possible for some women to be asymptomatic.
Where alarms start to ring is when they potentially cause some light spotting or bleeding, especially after a pelvic exam or sexual intercourse.
It’s enough to make any mama-to-be anxious and concerned.
Should a cervical polyp be removed during pregnancy?
Here’s where it gets a little more complicated—a polyp on cervix removal (polypectomy) may not always be the best option during pregnancy.
As for larger polyps, polypectomy also poses an increased risk of infection, hemorrhage, or perforation.
So what to do?
From here, they can take an ultrasound to better decide whether it needs to be removed.
Most obstetricians will keep an eye on the polyp’s size and location as the pregnancy progresses, weighing the benefits of removal over potential risks.
And if needs to be treated, they can walk you through all scenarios.
There’s strength in numbers—you don’t have to navigate these fears alone.
What are the signs of cervical polyps?
Many women don’t experience polyp on cervix symptoms, but for those who do, they may include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding: This might mean having periods that are heavier or lighter than usual or bleeding between periods.
- Bleeding after intercourse: This happens because the polyps, being more fragile and sensitive, can bleed when touched or disturbed.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge: This discharge can vary in color and consistency, and it’s caused by the inflammation or irritation of the cervical tissue around the polyp.
- Bleeding after menopause: Some spotting may happen with vaginal dryness but any postmenopausal bleeding should be investigated ASAP.
It’s important to note that while these symptoms can be signs of cervical polyps, they can also be signs of other conditions.
That’s why it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis if you experience any of these symptoms.
What causes cervical polyps?
The exact cause of cervical polyps is not clearly understood.
The research continues, but here are some possible factors:
- Hormonal fluctuations: Changes in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, seem to play a significant role in the growth of cervical polyps.
- Inflammation or infection: This inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), bacterial vaginosis (BV), or long-term use of birth control.
- Clogged blood vessels: Some experts believe that polyps may form when blood vessels in the cervix become clogged. This could lead to localized overgrowth of the cervical tissue, resulting in a polyp.
Do cervical polyps need to be removed?
Not all cervical polyps require removal, but it depends on several factors.
If it’s causing symptoms like irregular bleeding or discomfort, your doctor might suggest removing it.
This is also the case if the polyp is large or there’s any concern about its appearance— better to rule out the rare chance of it being cancerous.
Sometimes, if it’s a small polyp on cervix that’s not causing any symptoms, and appears normal, your doctor might just keep an eye on it instead of removing it right away.
This approach is called ‘watchful waiting.’
What is the best treatment for cervical polyps?
The go-to cervical polyp treatment is usually a polypectomy.
This is usually pretty straightforward and can be done in your doctor’s office.
It involves gently twisting the polyp off the cervix or snipping it with a small instrument.
The polyp is then sent to a lab for a biopsy to check for any abnormal or precancerous cells.
What is the recovery time for a cervical polyp?
Because polypectomy typically doesn’t require anesthesia—outside of local anesthesia for larger polyps—most people can get back to their regular activities soon after.
And recovery after polyp removal is generally quick.
You may experience some mild cramping (similar to period pain) afterward, but painkillers like paracetamol can help.
As for spotting or bleeding, this can happen for up to four weeks after the procedure.
And while it does, it’s recommended that you avoid having sex and using tampons.
Vigorous exercise and swimming is also a no-no for the first week.
Treat yourself kindly and give yourself time. Your body will do the rest.
Can I drive after cervical polyp removal?
Yes, you can usually drive yourself home after the procedure if you’ve had no anesthesia or only local anesthesia.
But in the cases of general anesthesia, you’ll need to wait at least 24 hours, so make sure you’ve someone to drive you home afterward (pampering is optional).
If you’re unsure, your doctor can let you know what’s best.
What happens if a cervical polyp is left untreated?
Most cervical polyps are benign and may not lead to significant health problems if left alone.
But, there are a few things that could happen: the polyp might continue to cause symptoms like spotting or irregular bleeding, or it could grow larger, potentially leading to more discomfort.
And if you’re trying to conceive (TTC), a polyp on cervix could lead to infertility.
There’s also that small, niggling risk that the polyp could develop precancerous or cancerous cells.
In short, while an untreated cervical polyp might not always be a cause for alarm, it’s definitely something to be mindful of and discuss with your healthcare provider.
Any form of discomfort is.
Someone else’s experience does not define yours.
If you have concerns about cervical polyps or experience any symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.
They are your best resource for personalized advice and care—and it’s okay to seek a second opinion, too.
Your health is important, and staying informed and vigilant is a vital part of taking care of yourself.
You might even say it’s empowering—Here. For. It. 👏