Objectives: Low participation rates for gynaecological examination and low reliability of clinical reporting of gynaecological examination findings are problems in community studies of gynaecological morbidity in India. This pilot study aimed to describe the reliability of a new examination protocol for recording the findings of gynaecological examination and the reliability and acceptability of the use of self administered vaginal swabs for the diagnosis of reproductive tract infections.
Method: 75 women attending a gynaecology outpatient clinic were purposively sampled. Each woman was examined by two gynaecologists independently who recorded findings on the new examination protocol. Two swabs were collected from each woman, one by the gynaecologist and one by the woman. Swabs were smeared on separate slides which were stained and read for bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis by laboratory technicians blind to the mode of collection of the slides.
Results: The study showed a high inter-rater reliability for most of the items of the examination protocol. The interslide agreement for the diagnosis of the two RTIs was high. One third of women preferred the self administered swab.
Conclusions: The examination protocol is a reliable method of recording gynaecological examination findings, and self administered swabs a useful way of obtaining vaginal specimens from women who did not wish to undergo gynaecological examinations in studies in the Indian setting.