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Vaginal swab test  

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Vaginal swab test is diagnostic test for a wide range of vaginal infections. It involves collecting the vaginal fluid with the help of a swab, which is nothing but a cotton bud and sending the sample to laboratory for further diagnosis

Why is the test needed?

When a woman has symptoms of vaginal infection, then doctors suggest vaginal swab test to determine the type of infection present. It could be yeast infection, STDs, or several other types of bacterial infection. To name a few they are: bacterial vaginosis, Chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, syphilis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea, etc.

Vaginal swab test is also done during screening of STDs

Once the nature of infection is detected you doctor subsequently plans the treatment.

How is vaginal swab test done?

The test is usually performed by a health care professional. Your doctor will perform the test on the day of the appointment or it could be done after a vaginal endoscopy as well.

You will lie down on the table with your knees bent and legs in stirrups. The doctor will use a speculum to gently part the walls of the vagina in order to get a clear view.

The vaginal swab comes in a sterile container. Your doctor will take out the cotton swab and gently insert it into the vagina. The swab gets soaked in the vaginal fluid which is then taken out and replaced in the container. The tube is capped and is sent to the lab for diagnosis.

How is vaginal swab tested in the laboratory?

The technique used for testing the vaginal swab is known as “Culture and sensitivity” testing. The swab is taken out from the capped container and is placed on a petri dish containing a jelly like substance. The jelly acts as a nutrient medium for growth of microorganisms that might be present in the vaginal fluid. The petri dish is placed inside an incubator in order to provide the right amount of temperature for microbial growth and multiplication.

The petri dish is taken out after the time period of incubation is over. If microorganisms are present then distinct colonies are observed on the jelly surface.

After this sensitivity test is done; this involves antibiotic screening of the microorganisms for determining the most effective variety.

The second technique is the wet mount procedure, wherein the collected sample of the vaginal fluid will be mixed with salt solution and then placed on a glass slide kept under a microscope. This procedure allows viewing the microorganisms like bacteria, yeast cells and trichomoniasis very distinctly. Even white blood cells can be seen which indicates presence of vaginal infections.  

Can vaginal swab test done at home?

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Yes, vaginal swab test can be done at home. You need to collect the swab kit from the health care provider. The technique is same as explained above. Open the cap of the container carefully and make sure you do not drop the swab or touch the cotton tip with your hand. Insert the swab about 2 inches inside your vagina and rotate it gently for 10-30 seconds. Then take out the swab without touching on your skin.

Place the swab inside the container and cap it. Label it as instructed and hand it over to the lab or whoever concerned.  

Are there any preparations needed?

You will be asked to stop douching and using vaginal creams and medicines 24 hours prior to the test. At times doctors may also ask to not have sexual intercourse a day before collecting the specimen

If your doctor is performing the test then you will probably need to change your dress with a hospital gown.

If you are doing it yourself, then make sure you wash your hands with soap and water before touching the swab kit.

How does vaginal swab test feel like?

It is painless technique. However, younger girls might sense a bit discomfort when the swab is inserted.

When is vaginal swab test not performed?

Doctors advice not to perform the test during periods.

Let your doctor know if you are pregnant

Are there any risks involved?

No

How long to wait for test reports?

Wet mount reports will be offered right away while culture and sensitivity report will take a few days

Further treatment of vaginal infection will completely depend on the test reports.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 29, 2015