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HealthInfo Canterbury

Understanding your vaginal swab results

Vaginal swabs are taken for several reasons. You may have a vaginal swab if you have irregular bleeding, vaginal or pelvic pain, or abnormal vaginal discharge. You may also have one as part of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) check-up.

If you are having an STI check-up you may also have a separate chlamydia swab.

What is a normal result?

If you have a normal result it will say: Normal vaginal flora.

What do the different terms mean?

Normal vaginal flora: this means there was no sign of any infections from your swab.

You might also get some other results.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV): All women naturally have some bugs (bacteria) in their vagina – it is normal and healthy. Bacterial vaginosis means some of the normal bugs have grown more than others, upsetting the natural balance. It can cause a smelly discharge. Bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted.

Candidiasis: this is commonly called thrush. Thrush can cause white vaginal discharge, and make your vagina itchy and uncomfortable. It is caused by a fungal infection, which is common during pregnancy and after you have had antibiotics. This is not sexually transmitted.

Trichomonas vaginalis (TV): this is a sexually transmitted infection, which can cause vaginal discharge and discomfort.

What happens next?

If you have bacterial vaginosis but no symptoms then you may not need any treatment, as it can get better on its own. But if you have symptoms, then you will be treated with an antibiotic called metronidazole, which you need to take for one week.

If your results show candidiasis (thrush), this will be treated with antifungal cream (clotrimazole) that you apply to the vagina with an applicator (pessary), or antifungal tablets (fluconazole), or a combination of the two.

If you have trichomonas, this will also be treated with metronidazole for one week. Your sexual partner should be treated at the same time.

Talk to your GP or nurse if you have any questions about your vaginal swab.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. June 2016.


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Review key: HIUTR-269145