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How do health care providers diagnose bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

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Diagnosis of BV requires a vaginal exam by a qualified health care provider and the laboratory testing of fluid collected from the vagina.1,2,3

An examination to diagnose BV is similar to a regular gynecological checkup. While performing the examination, your health care provider will visually examine your vagina for signs of BV, which include increased vaginal discharge that has a white or gray color.

Your health care provider will also collect a small amount of your vaginal fluid with a wooden spatula or cotton-tipped applicator. The sample will be tested in a laboratory for the diagnosis of BV.

An accurate diagnosis of BV is important because it will help the provider determine whether you have BV or some other infection, such as a sexually transmitted disease like chlamydia.

To ensure an accurate diagnosis, health care providers usually ask that you:

  • Do not douche for 24 hours before your exam.
  • Do not use anything that might irritate your vagina, like vaginal sprays.
  • Do not have sex during the 24 hours before your exam.
  • Do not put anything in your vagina, including a tampon, before seeing the health care provider.
  • Do not schedule your examination while you are menstruating.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Bacterial vaginosis: CDC fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm [top]
  2. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2008). Bacterial vaginosis fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html [top]
  3. Money, D. (2005). The laboratory diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology. 16, 77–79. [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 05/21/2013
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