Bacterial Vaginosis: Care Instructions

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Female pelvic organs


Bacterial vaginosis is a condition in which there is excess growth of certain bacteria that are normally found in the vagina. Symptoms often include abnormal gray or yellow discharge with a "fishy" odor. It is not considered an infection that is spread through sexual contact.

Symptoms can be annoying and uncomfortable. But bacterial vaginosis does not usually cause other health problems. However, in some cases it can lead to more serious issues.

While bacterial vaginosis may go away on its own, most doctors use antibiotics to treat it. You may have been prescribed pills or vaginal cream. With treatment, bacterial vaginosis usually clears up in 5 to 7 days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not eat or drink anything that contains alcohol if you are taking metronidazole or tinidazole.
  • Keep using your medicine if you start your period. Use pads instead of tampons while using a vaginal cream or suppository. Tampons can absorb the medicine.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing. Do not wear nylon and other materials that hold body heat and moisture close to the skin.
  • Do not scratch. Relieve itching with a cold pack or a cool bath.
  • Do not wash your vulva more than once a day. Use plain water or a mild, unscented soap. Do not douche.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or worse pain in your vagina or pelvis.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or worse vaginal itching or discharge.
  • You have unexpected vaginal bleeding.
  • You are not getting better as expected.
  • Your symptoms return after you finish the course of your medicine.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.