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What Is a Vaginal Swab?

Once the sample is obtained from the genitals, it is sealed and sent to a lab.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2014
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The term "vaginal swab" is usually used to indicate a type of test performed on a woman's genitals. To perform this test, a medical professional uses a cotton swab to collect a small amount of fluid from the inside of the vagina. From this, he or she can determine whether a woman has certain types of infections or check for the presence of foreign organisms. Once the swab is complete, it is usually sealed inside a collection container for a lab's analysis.

A vaginal swab is usually used in gynecological diagnostic procedures. A doctor or other health care professional may use one to investigate a possible sexually transmitted disease (STD), for example. This type of test is also used to analyze the organisms that are present inside the vagina. For example, a woman may have harmless or harmful bacteria in her vagina, and this test makes it possible to identify them. Often, it is also useful in identifying the presence of fungal organisms in the vagina, such as when a woman has a yeast infection.

To take a swab, a healthcare professional usually starts off with clean, gloved hands. With the patient in position for the test, which usually means on an exam table with her legs in stirrups, a medical professional uses a device called a speculum to gently part the walls of the patient's vagina. This allows him or her to see inside the vagina, if necessary, and also makes it easier to complete the test.

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When the speculum is in place and the medical professional is ready to perform the vaginal swab, he or she removes a swab from the sealed container in which it has been kept sterile. He or she then gently wipes the walls of the vagina in order to get a sample of the fluid found there, and places the swab in a small tube. This tube is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

There are a number of conditions for which a medical professional may test with a vaginal swab. For example, a doctor may test for bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis using this type of test. He can also check for an overabundance of yeast, which may mean a woman has a yeast infection. Likewise, the medical professional might even use a swab to detect the presence of harmless bacteria in the vagina.

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