Is there a test for bacterial vaginosis?
The typical discharge and its characteristic fishy smell make bacterial vaginosis (BV) likely. When your doctor examines you they may be able to identify BV from the appearance of the discharge.
There are some tests that can help to confirm the diagnosis. Also, if you are pregnant, it is important to make an accurate diagnosis of any unusual vaginal discharge so that any infection can be treated effectively. The tests include:
Testing the acid level of your vagina
The discharge of BV has a typical pH level (acidity level) which is higher than normal vaginal pH.
pH is measured on a scale from 0 (extreme acidity) to 14 (extremely alkaline). Pure water, which is neutral (neither acid nor alkaline) has a pH of 7.
- The normal pH of the vagina is 3.8-4.5.
- As soon as the pH increases above 4.5, anaerobic bacteria start to overgrow and lactobacilli (which maintain the acidity) start to die off.
Your doctor or nurse may suggest that they take a sample of your discharge and test it with some pH paper. You can buy a kit from a pharmacy to do this test yourself at home.
Taking a sample
To confirm the diagnosis of BV, your doctor or nurse may suggest that a sample (a swab) of your discharge be taken from your vagina and sent to the laboratory for examination and testing. The various types of germs (bacteria) that overgrow in BV are easily seen under the microscope. Your doctor or nurse may suggest that they take more than one swab from your vagina to rule out other causes of vaginal discharge.
Further reading and references
Management of bacterial vaginosis; British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (May 2012)
Sexually Transmitted Infections in Primary Care; Royal College of General Practitioners and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Apr 2013)
Bacterial vaginosis; NICE CKS, July 2014 (UK access only)
Vaginal discharge; NICE CKS, May 2013 (UK access only)
Brotman RM, Ghanem KG, Klebanoff MA, et al; The effect of vaginal douching cessation on bacterial vaginosis: a pilot study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun198(6):628.e1-7. Epub 2008 Mar 4.
McDonald HM, Brocklehurst P, Gordon A; Antibiotics for treating bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24(1):CD000262.
I was pretty excited to come on this site to share what has cured me because i know how frustrating bv is and i am sure some of you have tried many things. I had bv for 3 months. I am just now...kris29
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