Gynecologists' Smell Test

When my ex was pregnant 8+ years ago, she mentioned something to me that we thought was odd. The Ob/Gyn that she used would insert her finger into the obvious orifice, wearing a glove. She would then quickly sniff it. My ex noticed this at least twice, but never asked why. The Ob/Gyn was this older (60+) Filipina who I believe was taught outside the US. The doc was recommended by a friend of ours at the time, and seemed to quite popular considering the number of patients in the waiting room. She was also highly rated, so we never suspected anything fishy. (npi :D)

Anyway, has anyone heard of such a ‘smell’ test? What could she detect based on smell? Everything was normal with my ex’s pregnancies, in case that’s relevant.

WAG: Infection. Yeast, vaginitis, etc.

Link, so as to avoid the uncited WAG in GQ.

I did a lot of Gyn (and some OB) back in the days of my private practice career, and the only indication for using the nose back then was in the “whiff test”, where one would apply a swab of fluids from the vaginal vault to a microscope slide, then smell(“whiff”) the slide immediately after applying KOH, to detect the fishy (amine) odor of bacterial vaginosis.

Otherwise, odors are not particular diagnostic despite the claims of some clinicians that they could differentiate between yeast, trichomonas, chlamydia, gonorrhea, BV, or other based on smell alone. That’s what microscope slides, cultures, and immunoassays are for.

Though the smell of a retained tampon is pretty definitive…


I’ve never had the “dipstick” test during a Pap smear. I’d probably ask outright, “Uh, WHY are you doing THAT?”

I do know that some odors are characteristics of certain diseases, but these smells are usually obvious as soon as you are in the room with a person.

For instance, a “dead mouse” smell is often indicative of some cancers.

Or the ‘fruity’ acetone smell of a ketotic diabetic. And many inborn errors of metabolism can be detected by smell, such as maple syrup urine disease.

But the human nose is too puny and variable to be used reliably to diagnose very many diseases with the necessary degree of certainty.

I am not surprised to hear that the nose is not a reliable diagnostic tool to differentiate among diseases, but shouldn’t it be up to the task of telling that something’s amiss that deserves further investigation?

No, not as a rule.

A bad smell is very commonly present in the absence of disease.

And one generally doesn’t need a nose to diagnose gangrene. In fact, a nose is a liability there.

QtM, who’s seen waaaay too many healthy, smelly bodies.

Best post/user name combo of the week. :smiley:

Sorry to hijack, but how come a nose might be a liability with gangrene?

Jesus you’ve done a bit of everything, haven’t you?

(This is why I NEVER worry anymore or feel self conscious when I go to the gyn. She’s seen it and done it all, I’m sure. A retained tampon? You mean…they couldn’t get it out, and waited too long?)

Here’s something you might remember concerning the sensitivity of human noses. It doesn’t relate directly to the OP, but shows that we can train our sense of smell.

The odor is truly incapacitating.

In medicine I’ve seen and done a lot, yes.

Forgot it was there, stopped trying to get it out, didn’t remember putting it in, blamed someone else for putting it in while they weren’t looking, blamed the examiner for putting it in during the exam to find out why they smelled so bad, the excuses run the gamut.

Hell, one woman denied that the baby she delivered on a gurney in the hallway was here, blaming my fellow resident who ran to catch it for ‘putting it there like that’.

I probably change tampons too often if anything; I’m so horrified by the idea of TSS (Which I know is pretty rare) or worse, somehow forgetting it in there. I’ve actually had literal nightmares of forgetting one, so I know I’m a little high-strung (haha, joke) about it. How does one forget?

I have heard about the odor of gangrene. It knocks you flat, they say. Ugh.


And just because it bears repeating:


It doesn’t bear repeating. We heard you the first time.

Drugs and/or alcohol frequently play significant roles in this particular phenomenon.

Other forms of Microdeckia are responsible for many cases too.

Of course, that makes sense. In many ways I’ve lived a sheltered life, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol, so I usually don’t leap to those conclusions.