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:
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.
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
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
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