The words fishy and vagina should never go together. But every year, millions of people deal with the foul vaginal odor and unpleasant discharge associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Untreated BV is linked to fertility problems. BV can also increase your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). So it’s important to get the right BV medicine even if you have mild symptoms.
Read on for everything you need to know about the causes and symptoms of BV. Plus, how to get a BV prescription online through Dr. B’s health platform.
Bacterial vaginosis is a condition where the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina gets thrown off. It’s the most common vaginal issue in people with vaginas ages 15-44, affecting about 30% of such people at least once during their lifetime.
A healthy vagina usually has a large number of bacteria (Lactobacillus) that protect the vagina from other infections. When there aren’t enough Lactobacillus in the vagina, other kinds of harmful bacteria can spread and grow. The most common bacteria to cause bacterial vaginosis is Gardnerella vaginalis.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. But cases of BV are more common in people who:
You cannot get BV from sharing bedding or toilet seats or from swimming pools or hot tubs.
BV is most common in people who are sexually active. But BV is not an STI or sexually transmitted. It is possible to get BV without engaging in sexual activities!
Some symptoms are common across bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections (UTIs), STIs and yeast infections. The only way to know which infection you have is to talk to a medical provider. But these clues can suggest whether your symptoms might be from something other than BV.
You can have BV and a UTI or other condition at the same time. A medical provider can tell you how to treat BV and UTI together.
Bacterial vaginosis is treated with a course of antibiotics. Medications may come as a cream or gel that you put in the vagina. Other options include BV pills that you take by mouth or granules that you sprinkle over soft food and eat.
The most common medications used to treat infections of BV are Metronidazole and Clindamycin. Other options include Tinidazole and Secnidazole.
There are no over-the-counter medications for BV. Some over-the-counter medications—like those used for yeast infections—can actually make BV worse. So don’t try to cure BV at home without talking to a medical provider. You can start to treat BV online with a health assessment from Dr. B.
There are good arguments for and against treating bacterial vaginosis if you don’t have symptoms.
Some research suggests that asymptomatic BV can get better on its own—so there’s no need to use antibiotics. The CDC currently does not recommend treating bacterial vaginosis in people who do not have symptoms. (Except in certain circumstances.)
Other researchers claim that BV increases the risks of STIs, miscarriage and infertility. So they believe every case should be treated.
BV comes back in more than 50% of cases—even after successful treatment. A second round of antibiotics is often then prescribed. Given the side effects and high recurrence rate, researchers are exploring non-antibiotic options. These include:
Vaginal tissue is very sensitive. So it may be harmful to use an alternative treatment without talking to a medical provider. These products aren’t regulated by the FDA and could be dangerous. And they aren’t safe for every situation—including pregnant women and others who can become pregnant.
There is no foolproof way to prevent bacterial vaginosis. This can make the condition frustrating for those prone to recurrent BV. But there are steps you can take to encourage vaginal health and reduce your risk.
Here are a few activities to avoid that will prevent BV from coming back:
There is no clear scientific consensus about whether probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or supplements can prevent BV. And the dose and type of bacteria strain might impact how well a probiotic supplement works. Some research shows that probiotics with multiple types of bacteria are more effective.
If you decide to try probiotic supplements, talk to your medical provider. They’ll help you identify a brand that works best for you.
If you experience bacterial vaginosis symptoms, several BV prescription medications can help clear things up. And you can get these BV meds online with a Dr. B health assessment.
Just share your symptoms and medical history. A licensed provider will then take you through bacterial vaginosis prescription options. If appropriate, they’ll send your BV pill or other medication to the local pharmacy of your choice. Get started here.
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