Patient Information: Vulvar - Vaginal Disease
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Many types of bacteria normally live in balance in the vagina. An overgrowth of certain bacteria can lead to a vaginal infection call bacterial vaginosis. In the past, bacterial vaginosis was called non-specific, Haemophilus, and Gardnerella vaginitis.
What are the signs and symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
Symptoms vary and may include:
- A foul or "fishy" vaginal odor. The odor often seems worse after having sex.
- Increased amount of gray-white milky discharge.
Symptoms such as itching, burning, and irritation are not common but may occur in up to one-third of women with bacterial vaginosis. Some women may not notice any symptoms.
What is the cause of Bacterial Vaginosis?
The exact cause is unknown. Bacterial vaginosis seems to occur more often in women who have regular sexual contact. Bacterial vaginosis is not thought to be transmitted from one partner to another, like Chlamydia or gonorrhea. Bacterial vaginosis has also been found in women who have not had sex.
How is Bacterial Vaginosis diagnosed?
Bacterial vaginosis can only be diagnosed by your health care provider. A sample of discharge is looked at under a microscope to make a correct diagnosis. Other vaginal infections may cause symptoms similar to bacterial vaginosis. therfore, you must see your health care provider so a correct diagnosis can be made. You will also receive advice on options for treatment that will work best for you.
What is the treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis?
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial vaginosis and may be prescribed as:
- Pill form by mouth
- Gel or cream form that is applied into the vagina
Medications used to treat bacterial vaginosis can only be prescribed by a health care provider. Over the counter products such as creams, sprays, or douches will not be helpful. Douching can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria and cause other problems. Sexual partners are usually not treated. your health care provider may suggest treatment of your partner if you have frequent infections. It is best to avoid having sex during the treatment course. If you do have sex, your partner should wear a condom.
Are there any risks related to bacterial vaginosis?
Some but not all studies have shown an increased risk for:
- Pelvic Infection
- Premature (early) labor in pregnancy
- Infection after a vaginal birth, Cesarean section, or gynecologic surgery
You should see your health care provider if you notice any signs or symptoms of bacterial vaginosis.
Peer Review Status: Internally
Peer Review Date: 2004