Is It Safe to Get Pregnant After a Leep Procedure?

Risks to be aware of and what to ask your healthcare provider

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure, commonly known as LEEP, is a procedure that's done to treat persistent, low-grade and high-grade cervical dysplasia, an abnormal condition of the cervix that, if left untreated, can lead to precancer or cancer.

LEEP uses an electrically charged wire loop to remove cervical tissue. It's done under local anesthesia and is normally performed on an outpatient basis in a hospital or in the healthcare provider's office.

This article will explore pregnancy and birth for those with a history of LEEP.

What to Expect During a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure
Verywell / JR Bee

Pregnancy-Related Risks

When faced with the prospect of undergoing a LEEP procedure, many people are concerned about how it will affect future pregnancies. Tales of infertility, miscarriage, and preterm labor are often the first things people hear when researching a LEEP.

Research shows there is a small increased risk for preterm birth, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and low birth weight after a LEEP procedure, but most people have no problems.

Cervical Incompetence

When your cervix is diagnosed as "incompetent," it means that the cervix is unable to stay closed during pregnancy. Cervical incompetence can result in miscarriage and preterm labor.

However, a cervical cerclage can be done to ensure that the cervix remains closed during the pregnancy. This means that the cervix is sewn closed for the duration of the pregnancy. Only a small percentage of people who have had a LEEP will require a cerclage during pregnancy.

Miscarriage

One study showed that women who became pregnant less than a year after their LEEP procedures had a higher risk of miscarriage. The good news is that the same study showed that women who were a year or more beyond their LEEP procedures had no more risk of miscarriage than any other women.

Cervical Stenosis

This refers to the tightening and narrowing of the cervix. This can make it difficult for the cervix to dilate during labor.

Premature Birth

People who had LEEP are significantly more likely to give birth preterm before 37 weeks. However, this was also found to be true with those who have cervical dysplasia. This suggests that LEEP is not the only factor in preterm birth.

Low Birth Weight

In one study, LEEP was associated with low birth weight, although results from multiple studies have been mixed. This may be because of the increased risk of preterm birth, and hence lowered birth weight.

Difficulty Getting Pregnant

There are some concerns about fertility after a LEEP procedure. Research has yielded mixed results, but at least one study indicates that your ability to get pregnant is not affected.

There is also about a 10% risk of preterm delivery that's associated with LEEP, though many people do go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies.

The ways in which a future pregnancy will be affected by a LEEP depend on how much cervical tissue has been removed and whether this particular procedure or any other cervical surgery has been previously performed. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Questions for Your Healthcare Provider

There are several questions that you should ask your healthcare provider about LEEP if you plan on becoming pregnant. They include:

  • How do you think a LEEP will affect my pregnancy?
  • Is a LEEP the only treatment option I have?
  • How long will it take for my cervix to recover?
  • When can I begin to have sex again? (The average time to wait before having sex is about four to six weeks. It may be more or less depending on how much cervical tissue needed to be removed.)
  • How long after a LEEP can I try to get pregnant?

Cervical Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

During Pregnancy

Be sure to inform your healthcare provider if you have had a LEEP at your first obstetric appointment. Providing your healthcare provider with information, such as notes taken by the healthcare provider who performed the LEEP and the associated pathology reports, will help them determine the best way to manage your pregnancy.

Summary

LEEP is a procedure used to treat abnormal cells on the cervix. While it is effective in what it does, it does have potential future effects on pregnancy and birth for some people. Trouble getting pregnant, preterm birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage have all been associated with LEEP.

That being said, everyone is different. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks associated with LEEP and your plans for pregnancy and childbirth.

A Word From Verywell

While there are various issues with fertility, pregnancy, and birth associated with LEEP, it's also important to realize that everyone is different, and not every LEEP is the same. The amount of tissue removed and post-LEEP scarring can also contribute to later issues.

Your healthcare provider will be able to discuss your risks and things you should be aware of when trying to get pregnant or during your pregnancy after a LEEP.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When can you start trying to conceive after a LEEP?

    It can take up to six months for your cervix to fully heal after a LEEP. It's generally best to wait at least six months post-procedure to start trying to conceive.

  • Is it easier to get pregnant after LEEP?

    LEEP does not have a significant impact on fertility either way.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nam KH, Kwon JY, Kim YH, Park YW. Pregnancy outcome after cervical conization: risk factors for preterm delivery and the efficacy of prophylactic cerclageJ Gynecol Oncol. 2010;21(4):225–229. doi:10.3802/jgo.2010.21.4.225

  2. Ciavattini A, Clemente N, Delli carpini G, et al. Loop electrosurgical excision procedure and risk of miscarriage. Fertil Steril. 2015;103(4):1043-8. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.12.112

  3. Conner SN, Frey HA, Cahill AG, et al. Loop electrosurgical excision procedure and risk of preterm birth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123(4): 752-761. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000174

  4. Jin G, LanLan Z, Li C, Dan Z. Pregnancy outcome following loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): A systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 289: 85-99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-013-2955-0

  5. Kyrgiou M, Mitra A, Arbyn M, et al. Fertility and early pregnancy outcomes after treatment for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: systematic review and meta-analysisBMJ. 2014;349:g6192. doi:10.1136/bmj.g6192

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Fertility and pregnancy after a LEEP.

Additional Reading
Originally written by Lisa Fayed