Tests for Bacterial Vaginosis
Tests for bacterial vaginosis take samples of fluid and cells from the vagina to see if this vaginal infection is present. Bacterial vaginosis has also been called nonspecific vaginitis, Haemophilus vaginitis, or Gardnerella vaginitis.
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a change in the balance of microorganisms found in a healthy vagina. A healthy vagina normally has many microorganisms in it. The microorganisms involved in bacterial vaginosis include Gardnerella, Mobiluncus, Bacteroides, and Mycoplasma. When bacterial vaginosis is present, these microorganisms increase in number while the number of healthy microorganisms decrease.
Many women with bacterial vaginosis do not have symptoms. The most common symptom of bacterial vaginosis is an increase in a grayish white vaginal discharge, unlike normal vaginal discharge. The discharge often has a fishy smell.
Women who have bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy have a higher chance of miscarriage, early (preterm) delivery, and an infection after delivery, so it is important for pregnant women who have symptoms to be tested for bacterial vaginosis.
Several tests can be used to find bacterial vaginosis:
Bacterial vaginosis may be found during a Pap test. But a Pap test is not recommended as a test to find bacterial vaginosis.
Why It Is Done
Tests for bacterial vaginosis are done to help find the cause of an abnormal vaginal discharge or other symptoms of a vaginal infection, such as vaginal irritation or pain.
How To Prepare
Do not douche, have sex, or use vaginal medicines for 24 hours before having a bacterial vaginosis test.
These tests are not usually done during your menstrual period.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
You will take off your clothes below the waist. You will have a gown to drape around your waist. You will then lie on your back on an examination table with your feet raised and supported by stirrups. This is similar to having a pelvic examination or Pap test.
Your doctor will put an instrument with curved blades (speculum) into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls, allowing your doctor to see the inside of the vagina and the cervix. See a picture of the vaginal speculum examination.
Samples of fluid inside the vagina are then collected with a swab or wooden stick.
How It Feels
You may feel some discomfort when the speculum is put in, especially if your vagina is irritated and tender.
There is little or no risk in having a bacterial vaginosis test.
Tests for bacterial vaginosis take samples of fluid and cells from the vagina to see if this vaginal infection is present.
A high vaginal pH, clue cells, and a fishy odor usually are enough signs that bacterial vaginosis is present.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
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