Bacterial Vaginosis

What is Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection that occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. It results from an overgrowth of certain bacteria.

This is the most common vaginal infection among women ages 15–44.

Because bacterial vaginosis increases your risk for STIs (sexually transmitted infections), getting treated can help reduce your risk for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Treatment is also important for preventing complications in pregnant women, because this condition can cause an early (premature) delivery.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by an increase in harmful bacteria that are normally present in small amounts in the vagina. However, the reason that the condition develops is not fully understood.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners.
  • Having unprotected sex.
  • Douching.
  • Having an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Smoking.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Taking certain antibiotic medicines.
  • Being pregnant.

You cannot get bacterial vaginosis from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or contact with objects around you.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Grey or white vaginal discharge. The discharge can also be watery or foamy.
  • A fish-like odor with discharge, especially after sexual intercourse or during menstruation.
  • Itching in and around the vagina.
  • Burning or pain with urination.

Some women with bacterial vaginosis have no signs or symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on:

  • Your medical history.
  • A physical exam of the vagina.
  • Testing a sample of vaginal fluid under a microscope to look for a large amount of bad bacteria or abnormal cells. Your health care provider may use a cotton swab or a small wooden spatula to collect the sample.

How is this treated?

This condition is treated with antibiotics. These may be given as a pill, a vaginal cream, or a medicine that is put into the vagina (suppository). If the condition comes back after treatment, a second round of antibiotics may be needed.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Take or use your antibiotic as told by your health care provider. Do notstop taking or using the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.

General instructions

  • If you have a female sexual partner, tell her that you have a vaginal infection. She should see her health care provider and be treated if she has symptoms. If you have a male sexual partner, he does not need treatment.
  • During treatment:
    • Avoid sexual activity until you finish treatment.
    • Do notdouche.
    • Avoid alcohol as directed by your health care provider.
    • Avoid breastfeeding as directed by your health care provider.
  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Keep the area around your vagina and rectum clean.
    • Wash the area daily with warm water.
    • Wipe yourself from front to back after using the toilet.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • Do notdouche.
  • Wash the outside of your vagina with warm water only.
  • Use protection when having sex. This includes latex condoms and dental dams.
  • Limit how many sexual partners you have. To help prevent bacterial vaginosis, it is best to have sex with just one partner (monogamous).
  • Make sure you and your sexual partner are tested for STIs.
  • Wear cotton or cotton-lined underwear.
  • Avoid wearing tight pants and pantyhose, especially during summer.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol that you drink.
  • Do notuse any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Do notuse illegal drugs.

Where to find more information

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve, even after treatment.
  • You have more discharge or pain when urinating.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain in your abdomen.
  • You have pain during sex.
  • You have vaginal bleeding between periods.

Summary

  • Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection that occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted.
  • Because bacterial vaginosis increases your risk for STIs (sexually transmitted infections), getting treated can help reduce your risk for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Treatment is also important for preventing complications in pregnant women, because the condition can cause an early (premature) delivery.
  • This condition is treated with antibiotic medicines. These may be given as a pill, a vaginal cream, or a medicine that is put into the vagina (suppository).

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina. It happens when too many normal germs (healthy bacteria) grow in the vagina. This infection puts you at risk for infections from sex (STIs). Treating this infection can lower your risk for some STIs. You should also treat this if you are pregnant. It can cause your baby to be born early.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • Take or use your antibiotic medicine as told by your doctor. Do notstop taking or using it even if you start to feel better.

General instructions

  • If you your sexual partner is a woman, tell her that you have this infection. She needs to get treatment if she has symptoms. If you have a male partner, he does not need to be treated.
  • During treatment:
    • Avoid sex.
    • Do notdouche.
    • Avoid alcohol as told.
    • Avoid breastfeeding as told.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your pee (urine) clear or pale yellow.
  • Keep your vagina and butt (rectum) clean.
    • Wash the area with warm water every day.
    • Wipe from front to back after you use the toilet.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Preventing this condition

  • Do notdouche.
  • Use only warm water to wash around your vagina.
  • Use protection when you have sex. This includes:
    • Latex condoms.
    • Dental dams.
  • Limit how many people you have sex with. It is best to only have sex with the same person (be monogamous).
  • Get tested for STIs. Have your partner get tested.
  • Wear underwear that is cotton or lined with cotton.
  • Avoid tight pants and pantyhose. This is most important in summer.
  • Do notuse any products that have nicotine or tobacco in them. These include cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.
  • Do notuse illegal drugs.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better, even after you are treated.
  • You have more discharge or pain when you pee (urinate).
  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain in your belly (abdomen).
  • You have pain with sex.
  • Your bleed from your vagina between periods.

Summary

  • This infection happens when too many germs (bacteria) grow in the vagina.
  • Treating this condition can lower your risk for some infections from sex (STIs).
  • You should also treat this if you are pregnant. It can cause early (premature) birth.
  • Do notstop taking or using your antibiotic medicine even if you start to feel better.
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