Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on September 06, 2021
2 min read

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection caused by too much of a certain type of bacteria in your vagina. Left untreated, it can raise your risk for several serious health problems.

Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t always cause symptoms. But if it does, they can include:

  • Pain, burning, or itching in the vagina
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina
  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong, fish-like odor, especially after sex
  • A burning sensation when you’re peeing
  • Stomach pain

Other conditions have similar symptoms. See your doctor and get tested for BV to be sure this is the cause of your symptoms.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic medication (a pill, gel or cream) to kill the infection. These might include:

Clindamycin, a cream you use in your vagina. It sells under the brand names Cleocin and Clindesse.

Metronidazole, available as a pill you swallow or a gel you insert in your vagina. This medication sells under the brand names Flagyl and Metrogel-Vaginal.

Secnidazole, available as a single pill you take once. It’s sold under the brand name Solosec.

Tinidazole, available as a pill you swallow. It’s sold under the brand name Tindamax.

It’s important to take your medication for as long as your doctor prescribes it. If you stop taking it early, you may increase the chance BV will come back.

Clindamycin can weaken latex condoms not only while you’re using the medication, but for at least 3 days after you stop. The other 3 won’t affect the birth control pill or patch.

You should avoid alcohol while taking metronidazole, secnidazole, or tinidazole and for at least a day after you finish your prescription. This will lessen your chance of upset stomach or nausea. 

It’s common for this infection to come back within a year. If that happens, talk to your doctor about treatments. They may prescribe extended-use metronidazole.

Can Probiotics Treat BV?

You might have considered taking these good bacteria as a way to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your vagina.

There are at least seven types of bacteria that grow in the vagina. Lactobacillus is one of them. BV is linked to a decrease of lactobacillus, which is found in yogurt and acidophilus milk. Some studies suggest that eating foods that contain lactobacillus may be beneficial, but more research is needed.

Do not douche with yogurt or any other product. Vaginal douching is a risk factor for BV.