A hysteroscopy is a procedure used to examine the inside of the womb (uterus).
It's carried out using a hysteroscope, which is a narrow telescope with a light and camera at the end. Images are sent to a monitor so your doctor or specialist nurse can see inside your womb.
The hysteroscope is passed into your womb through your vagina and cervix (entrance to the womb), which means no cuts need to be made in your skin.
A hysteroscopy can be used to:
A procedure called dilatation and curettage (D&C) used to be common to examine the womb and remove abnormal growths, but now hysteroscopies are carried out instead.
A hysteroscopy is usually carried out on an outpatient or day-case basis. This means you do not have to stay in hospital overnight.
It may not be necessary to use anaesthetic for the procedure, although local anaesthetic (where medication is used to numb your cervix) is sometimes used.
General anaesthetic may be used if you're having treatment during the procedure or you would prefer to be asleep while it's carried out.
A hysteroscopy can take up to 30 minutes in total, although it may only last around 5 to 10 minutes if it's just being done to diagnose a condition or investigate symptoms.
Read more about what happens during a hysteroscopy.
This seems to vary considerably between women. Some women feel no or only mild pain during a hysteroscopy, but for others the pain can be severe.
If you find it too uncomfortable, tell the doctor or nurse. They can stop the procedure at any time.
If you're worried, speak to the doctor or nurse before having the procedure about what to expect and ask them about pain relief options.
Most women feel able to return to their normal activities the following day, although some women return to work the same day.
You may wish to have a few days off to rest if general anaesthetic was used.
While you're recovering:
Your doctor or nurse will discuss the findings of the procedure with you before you leave hospital.
Read more about what happens after a hysteroscopy.
A hysteroscopy is generally very safe but, like any procedure, there is a small risk of complications. The risk is higher for women who have treatment during a hysteroscopy.
Some of the main risks associated with a hysteroscopy are:
A hysteroscopy will only be carried out if the benefits are thought to outweigh the risks.
Your womb could also be examined by using a:
These alternatives may be performed alongside a hysteroscopy, but do not provide as much information and can't be used to treat problems in the same way as a hysteroscopy.