Bacterial Vaginosis

("B.V" or "Non-Specific Vaginitis")

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection of the vagina. In the past, bacterial vaginosis has also been called nonspecific vaginitis or Gardnerella vaginalis.

Why does it occur?

Bacterial vaginosis (B.V.) appears to be caused by an overgrowth and imbalance of several types of bacteria. These bacteria are normally found in the vagina, so this is not truly an infection. However, when too many of them overgrow in the vagina this can cause bacterial vaginosis. It is not known what causes the overgrowth of bacteria. It is also not known if this condition can be passed to another person by sexual activity. Most cases of bacterial vaginosis occur in sexually active women. However, women who are not sexually active can also have bacterial vaginosis. Therefore, B.V. is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is a discharge from the vagina. The discharge may be gray or yellowish. It often has a fishy odor. You may also have itching and burning around the vaginal opening.

How is it diagnosed?

We will do a pelvic exam and get a sample of the vaginal discharge. The discharge will be examined under the microscope while you are waiting so we can treat you immediately.

How is it treated?

The usual treatment is with a vaginal cream that you place in the vagina at night. Occasionally, we will prescribe an oral tablet instead. Usually your sexual partner does not need to be treated, but in recurrent cases we may recommend he be treated as well. You may still have intercourse during treatment, but make sure the last thing you do before going to sleep is place the cream in the vagina. If you are using a diaphragm for contraception, it would be best to abstain from intercourse during treatment.

How long will the effects last?

The symptoms usually go away within a few days after you start treatment.

How do I take care of myself while I'm being treated?

You should avoid douching or using other vaginal medications while being treated. If you are taking metronidazole (MetroGel vaginal, or Flagyl oral), consumption of alcohol may make you very nauseous and is best avoided.

What can be done to help prevent bacterial vaginosis?

Because the cause is not known, there is no way to prevent it. Some women find that avoiding vaginal irritants, especially douches or bubble baths, may help. Another possibly helpful technique is to keep the vaginal pH low. This can be done by using boric acid capsules in the vagina for a few days if symptoms seem to be starting, or right after your menstrual period is over.

You can buy Boric acid over the counter at the pharmacy and also some gelatin capsules (available from the pharmacist in size “0” or “00”). Fill the capsules and store them in a sealed glass jar out of the reach of children. Boric Acid is a poison if taken orally!!! When needed, place a capsule high in the vagina once or twice a day. This will help acidify the vaginal pH and may promote the growth of the “good” bacteria that balances the vagina.