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Bacterial Vaginosis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection in the vagina. It may cause vaginitis (irritation and inflammation of the vagina). The cause is not known. Bacteria normally found in the vagina are imbalanced. Your risk increases if you are sexually active, you use a douche, or you have an intrauterine device (IUD).

Female Reproductive System

What are common signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

  • White, gray, or yellow vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal discharge that smells like fish
  • Itching or burning around the outside of your vagina

How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask if you have other health conditions. He or she may need to take a sample of fluid from your vagina. This will be tested for the bacteria that causes vaginosis.

How is bacterial vaginosis treated?

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. They may be given as a pill or as a cream to put in your vagina.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What do I need to know about bacterial vaginosis and pregnancy?

If you have bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, your baby may be born early or have a low birth weight. Your healthcare provider may recommend testing for bacterial vaginosis before or during your pregnancy. He or she will talk to you about your risk for premature delivery, and make sure you know the benefits and risks of testing.

How can I prevent bacterial vaginosis?

  • Keep your vaginal area clean and dry. Wear underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. Wipe from front to back after you urinate or have a bowel movement. After you bathe, rinse soap from your vaginal area to decrease your risk for irritation.
  • Do not use products that cause irritation. Always use unscented tampons or sanitary pads. Do not use feminine sprays, powders, or scented tampons. They may cause irritation and increase your risk for vaginosis. Detergents and fabric softeners may also cause irritation.
  • Do not use a douche. This can cause an imbalance in healthy vaginal bacteria.
  • Use latex condoms during sex. This helps prevent another infection and keeps your partner from getting the infection.

When should I call my doctor or gynecologist?

  • Your symptoms come back or do not improve with treatment.
  • You have vaginal bleeding that is not your monthly period.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.