During a vaginal examination, the health care provider uses a swab to take samples of mucus and cells from the endocervix. This is the area around the opening of the uterus. The samples are sent to a lab. There, they are placed in a special dish (culture). They are then watched to see if bacteria, virus, or fungus grow. Further tests may be done to identify the specific organism and determine the best treatment.
How to Prepare for the Test
In the two days before the procedure:
Do not use creams or other medicines in the vagina.
Do not douche. (You should never douche. Douching can cause infections of the vagina or uterus.)
Empty your bladder and bowel.
At your health care provider’s office, follow instructions for preparing for the vaginal exam.
How the Test will Feel
You will feel some pressure from the speculum. This is an instrument inserted into the vagina to hold the area open so that the health care provider can view the cervix and collect the samples. There may be a slight cramping when the swab touches the cervix.
Craft AC, Woods GL. Specimen collection and handling for diagnosis of infectious diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 63.
Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower and upper genital tracts: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 56th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 23.
Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.