A vaginal wet mount (sometimes called a vaginal
smear) is a test to find the cause of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina
and the area around the vagina (vulva). See a picture of
Vaginitis is often caused by an infection, but
it may also be caused by a reaction to vaginal products such as soap, bath
oils, spermicidal jelly, or douches. Vaginitis may cause symptoms such as
vaginal itching, pain, or discharge.
Infections that can cause
vaginitis are common and include:
A vaginal sample may be tested by:
A vaginal wet mount is done to find the
cause of vaginal itching, burning, rash, odor, or discharge.
Do not douche, use tampons, or use
vaginal medicines for 24 hours before the test.
A vaginal wet
mount is not done during your menstrual period. Menstrual blood on the slide
can change the results.
If you are or might be pregnant, tell your
doctor before the vaginal wet mount is done.
You will take off your clothes below the
waist and drape a gown around your waist. You will then lie on your back on an
examination table with your feet raised and supported by stirrups. This allows
your doctor to look at the genital area.
Your doctor will put a
smooth, curved speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the
vaginal walls, which allows your doctor to see the inside of the vagina and the
Samples of fluid inside the
vagina are taken with a swab or spatula. The sample is put on a slide for
You may feel some discomfort when the
speculum is inserted, especially if your vagina is irritated and tender. There
may be a small amount of bleeding after this test.
There are no problems from collecting a sample of
A vaginal wet mount (sometimes called a
vaginal smear) is a test to find the cause of vaginitis, or inflammation of the
vagina and the area around the vagina (vulva). Your doctor may talk to you
about the results after the test. If the sample needs to be looked at by a lab,
the results may be ready in 1 to 2 days.
No abnormal vaginal discharge
is present. A small amount of discharge is normal.
A white, lumpy discharge that
looks like cottage cheese may mean a vaginal yeast infection is present. A
yellow-green, foamy discharge that has a bad odor may mean
trichomoniasis is present. A thin, gray-white vaginal
discharge with a strong fishy odor may mean
bacterial vaginosis is present.
No yeast, bacteria,
clue cells are found on the slide. White blood cells
are not present or very low in number.
High numbers of white blood
cells often mean a vaginal infection. Yeast cells found on the wet mount mean a
vaginal yeast infection is present. Trichomonads on the wet mount mean
trichomoniasis is present. Clue cells means bacterial vaginosis is present. If
many Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria are present, this
also may mean bacterial vaginosis is present.
No yeast is found.
Yeast cells means a yeast
infection is present.
pH is 3.8–4.5.
Vaginal pH is higher than
Adding potassium hydroxide
(KOH) solution to vaginal discharge does not cause a fishy odor.
A fishy odor made by the whiff
test means bacterial vaginosis is present.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
CitationsEpstein A, Subir R (2010). Vulvovaginitis. In Management of
Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 225–230. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.Other Works ConsultedEckert LO, Lentz GM (2007). Infections of the lower genital tract.
In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp.
569–606. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.Epstein A, Subir R (2010). Vulvovaginitis. In Management of
Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 225–230. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
August 1, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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