Learn about a BV Treatment


A noticeable unpleasant or fishy odor may be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is a common Infection.1 In fact, it affects over 21 million women in the U.S. annually.2 If you have it, BV can be a real bummer.

How does BV develop? Every day, your vagina balances good bacteria (lactobacilli) with bad bacteria (anaerobes). Usually there's more good bacteria than bad bacteria. Having enough good bacteria, while keeping some bad bacteria under control, can help keep the vagina healthy. But if there's not enough good bacteria, more bad bacteria may develop and lead to BV.2

Despite numerous medical studies, no one is quite sure what causes the imbalance in vaginal bacteria. BV can occur even if you've never had intercourse.3 This means it's NOT a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Side note: Learn why STDs are now called STIs.

BV is NOT a matter of poor hygiene, either.3 BV can occur whenever there is a bacterial imbalance in the vagina, which can happen when you use hygiene products like scented soaps or douches.4 Here are the facts:

bacterial vaginosis statistics
bacterial vaginosis statistics

*Data collected from a survey of women with recurrent BV.


  • Contracting STIs like herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, which can later cause infertility
  • Premature labor or other pregnancy complications like low birth weight

There's no need to ring the alarm just yet. Thankfully, BV is treatable with a prescription from a healthcare provider.1 That's why it's extremely important to talk to one.

If you have a female partner, BV can spread to her, too.1 If you think you have BV, she should visit a healthcare provider as well. Male sex partners can't contract BV since—you guessed it—they don't have vaginas!

Need help talking to your healthcare provider? Here's a handy Discussion Guide.


Because the symptoms are similar, it can be hard to tell one gynecological infection from another. We hope this chart helps! But, most importantly, make sure to talk to a healthcare provider for real help.


BV can be treated with a prescription from your OB/GYN or other healthcare provider.

tube of cream icon

Treatments include up to 7-day courses of oral antibiotics, or up to 5-day courses of antibiotic gels or creams applied inside the vagina. There are also single-dose options available. Only prescription antibiotics have been proven effective at treating BV.7

no alcohol icon

It's recommended NOT to drink alcohol during treatment with some of these options, or for at least 24 hours after completing treatment, due to the possibility of an adverse reaction between those medicines and alcohol.7 Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medicine you're prescribed is one of those medications. Not all medications have this restriction7

no sex icon

You may want to hold off on sex entirely until BV goes away and treatment is complete.7 You may also be advised to abstain from sex during treatment because oil-based cream medications can weaken condoms and/or diaphragms.7

Pay attention, ladies, this is important:
60% of women with bv pie chart
are more than likely to see it return within 12 months.5
Unfortunately, sometimes saying goodbye to BV is more of a see you later.


Take charge of your treatment plan! Get a helpful guide with questions to ask and ways to prepare for a visit with your healthcare provider.


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial vaginosis—CDC Fact Sheet. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0070716. Published June 2017. Accessed August 8, 2019.
  • Koumans EH, Sternberg M, Bruce C, et al. The prevalence of bacterial vaginosis in the United States, 2001-2004; associations with symptoms, sexual behaviors, and reproductive health. Sex Transm Dis. 2007;34(11):864-869.
  • Brotman RM. Vaginal microbiome and sexually transmitted infections: an epidemiologic perspective. J Clin Invest. 2011;121(12):4610-4617.
  • Kumar N, Behera B, Sagiri SS, Pal K, Ray SS, Roy S. Bacterial vaginosis: etiology and modalities of treatment—a brief note. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011;3(4):496-503. doi: 10.4103/0975-7406.90102. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  • Bilardi JE, Walker S, Temple-Smith M, et al. The burden of bacterial vaginosis: women’s experience of the physical, emotional, sexual and social impact of living with recurrent bacterial vaginosis. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e74378. https://doi.org.10.1371/journal.pone.0074378. Accessed August 23, 2017.
  • Payne SC, Cromer PR, Stanek MK, Palmer AA. Evidence of African-American women's frustrations with chronic recurrent bacterial vaginosis. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2010;22(2):101-108.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases characterized by vaginal discharge. www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/vaginal-discharge-htm. Accessed September 25, 2017.
  • Garber GE. The laboratory diagnosis of Trichomonas vaginalis. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2005;16:35-38.