Health Self-Exam for Women How to Examine the Vagina and Cervix Part 2

About the way to give a self-exam for women, health and gynecology information, diagnosing an infection.


9. For diagnosis of infection:

Common Vaginal Infections. The following descriptions portray the typical symptoms of vaginal infections. The information is given as a rough guide to help in self-examination, but it cannot provide positive diagnosis because the symptoms of these infections vary with the individual case and with the severity of the infection. In any case, a physician should be seen if an infection is suspected. (Note: These infections are not spread strictly by sexual contact. Many women have one or more of them on several different occasions, and they may occur simultaneously in what is called a "mixed infection.")


Discharge: White, thick, like cottage cheese.

Odor: Similar to yeast, baking bread.

Appearance: Vagina and outer genitals perhaps reddened, vagina may have white patches.

Other symptoms: Itching; maybe painful intercourse; can cause burning or painful urination.


Discharge: Frothy yellow-green; if present as mixed infection, thick and white.

Odor: Strong, unusual, unpleasant.

Appearance: May cause itching, soreness, swelling, bleeding of vagina; may cause red "strawberry" spots on cervix; possibly urinary infection as well.

Note: Trichomoniasis is passed back and forth between sexual partners, although the male usually does not have symptoms. In order to cure it, both partners must take a drug concurrently.


Discharge: White or yellow, heavy, viscous.

Odor: Varies.

Appearance: Cloudy, puffy, pus-covered vaginal walls; may cause burning or frequent urination, lower back pain, cramps, or swollen lymph nodes.


Cervicitis is the name given to an inflammation of the cervix, which is often associated with a vaginal infection.

Urinary Tract Infection. Painful and/or frequent urination, often with burning of the urethra, indicating a growth of bacteria in the bladder or elsewhere in the urinary tract, usually associated with a vaginal infection. Drinking lots of water, especially after intercourse (which may introduce bacteria into the urethra), and urinating soon after intercourse will help prevent urinary infections, which can become chronic in many women. They are treated with oral antibiotics.

10. When you have finished, pull the speculum slightly out, then pull up the thumb-hold to close the blades, and remove it from the vagina. (If you close the blades without pulling the speculum out a little, you may pinch your cervix, which will not harm you but will be uncomfortable.)

11. Observe the secretions on the speculum blades for consistency, color, and odor. Refer to the chart.

12. Wash the speculum thoroughly. To avoid transfer of infection, each woman should have her own speculum.

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