When women are diagnosed with cervical dysplasia – abnormal, often pre-cancerous cells in the cervix – the obvious course of action is to remove those cells to protect the patient’s overall health. Unfortunately there are risks that come with having even small portions of the cervix removed, particularly for women who hope to get pregnant in the future.
What is LEEP?
Loop electrical excision procedure (LEEP) is generally performed following a biopsy that shows abnormal cells in the cervix. The abnormalities themselves are usually discovered during a routine Pap smear test.
During the LEEP, your OB/GYN will insert a thin metal wire through your vagina. The wire is heated electrically, and is used to cut away the pre-cancerous cells. In most cases, the procedure is brief and happens in the doctor’s office, utilizing local anesthesia in the form of a numbing agent.
While LEEP itself is not dangerous, the primary concern of many patients has always been whether having the procedure will affect any future pregnancies.
LEEP and Pregnancy: New Findings
That’s what makes this latest study so encouraging. Researchers in London have found that LEEP risks may not be as problematic as previously thought. While the past wisdom has been that performing this procedure would result in an increased chance of premature birth with later pregnancies, the latest numbers make that likelihood seem much smaller.
The study includes data from over 44,000 women in the UK, all of whom underwent. What researchers discovered from over 18,000 of those women had later decided become pregnant was that – after allowing for specific variables in the data – they found no evidence of increased instances of premature birth.
The study’s authors note that these results are different from those found in similar studies that took place in other countries. Professor Peter Sasieni, who performed the study, suspects that the issue in some other countries may be that doctors there are not as well-trained in performing LEEP. This suspicion underscores the importance of finding a qualified, board-certified OB/GYN for this and any other gynecological procedure.
For women still concerned about LEEP, it is important to remember that your doctor will not suggest a procedure like this unless abnormal and potentially pre-cancerous cells are indicated in your Pap smear, meaning that you are at risk for cervical cancer. Since cancer treatments have far more serious consequences on fertility, LEEP and other procedures to remove abnormal cervical cells are the far safer route.