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The endocervix is the opening of the uterus. If you have an infection in your genital tract, your doctor may order a culture of the endocervix to help determine the cause. This test is sometimes called a:
It’s normal for women to have some vaginal discharge, but it may be a symptom of an infection if you have discharge that has an unusual color, odor, or quantity, or is accompanied by pain. An endocervical culture can help your doctor identify the cause of your symptoms and provide appropriate treatment.
All women experience vaginal discharge, especially during childbearing years. Normal discharge should appear white or yellow. The amount of discharge can change during different phases of your menstrual cycle. Unusual changes in your vaginal discharge may be symptoms of an infection.
Your doctor might order an endocervical culture if:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. A vaginal or cervical infection can spread to your uterus, fallopian tubes, and entire pelvic area if you don’t get treatment for it. This can cause serious complications, including painful sexual intercourse and infertility. An endocervical culture can help your doctor pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, and determine an appropriate treatment.
Your doctor may also order an endocervical culture to screen you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For example, they may order the test if one of your sexual partners has been diagnosed with an STI, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Your doctor may ask you to do the following to prepare for the endocervical culture:
Douching, or cleaning your vaginal area with special products, can spread infection. It’s especially important to avoid douching for at least 24 hours before your pelvic exam.
Your doctor will collect a sample of mucous cells from your endocervix during a pelvic exam. They’ll ask you to undress from the waist down and lie on an examination table. They’ll cover your lower body with a gown and ask you to place your feet in stirrups.
Your doctor will use a metal or plastic instrument called a speculum to hold your vagina open. Then, they’ll use a swab to collect a sample of mucous cells from your endocervix. During this part of the exam, you may feel some pressure, cramping, or discomfort.
Your doctor will then place the cell samples on a slide or in a culture container. They’ll send the samples to a laboratory. Lab technicians will check for microorganisms that can cause infections. Once your doctor has received the laboratory results, they’ll discuss the follow-up steps with you.
Some organisms are normally in the vaginal area and don’t cause problems, but a variety of organisms can cause infection, including:
This test can also help your doctor diagnose and monitor urethritis. This condition is an inflammation of your urethra, the tube through which urine leaves your body.
Finding out the results of an endocervical culture can also help your doctor diagnose and monitor pelvic inflammatory disease. This condition can occur due to an infection that’s spread from your vagina or cervix to any of the following areas:
If you have an abnormal lab result, your doctor will recommend appropriate follow-up steps. For example, they may order additional tests or prescribe treatment, such as antibiotics or other medications.
If you suspect you have a genital or urinary tract infection, make an appointment with your doctor. They may order an endocervical culture to help determine the cause of your symptoms. For example, this test can help them diagnose:
Once your test results are available, ask your doctor for more information about your specific diagnosis, treatment plan, and long-term outlook.
Written by: Ann Pietrangelo
Medically reviewed on: Jul 19, 2016: Michael Weber, MD
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