If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection in the vagina caused by a type of bacteria (germ). The vagina normally contains a lot of “good” bacteria, called lactobacilli. It also contains a few other types of bacteria called anaerobes. Too many anaerobes can cause bacterial vaginosis. It is not known why the anaerobe bacteria overgrow and cause this infection.
How do I know I have bacterial vaginosis?
You may notice a discharge from your vagina. The discharge may be clear or colored. It may be very light or heavy. It may have a fishy smell. This smell may be more intense after you have sexual intercourse. Some women have bacterial vaginosis without any symptoms.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
How did I get bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of bacteria that are normally in the vagina. However, activities such as douching can put you at greater risk for bacterial vaginosis. So can having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners. Bacterial vaginosis is more common in women who are sexually active. But it also occurs in women who are not sexually active. It’s not usually necessary for your sex partner to be treated if they come in contact with you.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine your vagina and use a cotton swab to get a sample of the discharge. This sample will be tested.
How is bacterial vaginosis treated?
It can be treated in one of several ways. Your healthcare provider may prescribe pills for you to take by mouth, or a cream or gel to put in your vagina. It’s important to use your medicine exactly as your healthcare provider tells you.
If your healthcare provider prescribes metronidazole or other medicines, don’t drink any alcohol while taking the medicine or for 24 hours afterward. Combining alcohol with these medicines can cause nausea and vomiting. Even the small amount of alcohol in many cough syrups can cause nausea and vomiting if you’re taking metronidazole. Also, be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you are currently taking.
If the infection isn’t treated, the bacteria may get up into the uterus or the fallopian tubes and cause more serious infections. Treating bacterial vaginosis lowers this risk. Treatment is especially important in pregnant women.
Living with bacterial vaginosis
Some women suffer from chronic (recurring) bacterial vaginosis. Medicine can clear up the infection, but it returns again after a few weeks. Some women report that bacterial vaginosis returns after their period each month. Or it can return after they have sex. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have chronic bacterial vaginosis.