How the Test is Performed
- You lie on your back on the exam table. Your feet are supported by footrests.
- The health care provider gently inserts an instrument (speculum) into the vagina to hold it open so the provider can see inside.
- A sterile, moist cotton swab is gently inserted into the vagina to take a sample of discharge.
- The swab and speculum are removed.
The discharge is sent to a lab. There, it is placed onto a slide. It is then viewed under a microscope and checked for signs of infection.
How to Prepare for the Test
- In the two days before the test, do not use creams or other medicines in the vagina.
- Do not douche. (You should never douche. Douching can cause infection of the vagina or uterus.)
How the Test will Feel
There may be slight discomfort when the speculum is inserted into the vagina.
Why the Test is Performed
The test looks for the cause of vaginal irritation and discharge.
A normal test result means there are no signs of an infection.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results mean there is an infection. The most common infections are due to one or a combination of the following:
Bacterial vaginosis — bacteria that normally live in the vagina overgrow, causing a heavy, white, fishy-smelling discharge and possibly a rash, painful intercourse, or odor after intercourse
Trichomoniasis— a sexually transmitted disease
Vaginal yeast infection
There are no risks with this test.
For information on treatment and prevention, please see the article on