How do healthcare providers diagnose bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Diagnosis of BV requires a vaginal exam by a qualified healthcare 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 healthcare provider will visually examine your vagina for signs of BV, which include increased vaginal discharge that has a white or gray color.

Your healthcare 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, healthcare 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
  2. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2008). Bacterial vaginosis fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from
  3. Money, D. (2005). The laboratory diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology. 16, 77–79.
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