Can Antibiotics Cause Bacterial Vaginosis?

Fact Checked

There are four common types of vaginosis or, as it is more commonly referred to, vaginitis. These four types of vaginitis can be caused by many factors, including an overgrowth of bacteria or fungus, uncontrolled diabetes, and hormonal changes. It can also be caused by bubble baths, sexually transmitted diseases, and vaginal contraceptives. And, yes, it can be caused by antibiotics too. However, not all of the four types of vaginitis (bacterial, yeast infection, trichomoniasis, and atrophic vaginitis) are caused by the same things.

Bacterial Vaginitis Defined

This type of vaginitis is due to an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina; not antibiotics. This bacteria, or abundance of organisms, are normally expected to be present in the vagina -- but in less number. Their overgrowth disrupts the natural vaginal balance, resulting in the production of numerous irritating symptoms, some more repugnant that others, including a “fishy” smell.

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginitis

With this type of vaginitis, a grayish-white discharge can be expected, as well as a possible fish smell, especially after sex. In addition, it is common to also experience itching or irritation in the vaginal area, pain during urination or intercourse, and even light bleeding from the vagina. A change in normal vaginal discharge (in regards to color, odor, or amount) can be the first indicator that you have vaginitis.

Antibiotics' Role in Bacterial Vaginitis

Although antibiotics do not play a role in a woman acquiring this type of vaginitis, it does play a role in treating it. In fact, this type of vaginitis requires the use of antibiotic treatment in order to eradicate it from the vagina.

Antibiotic Treatment

There are generally two types of medications prescribed for treating bacterial vaginitis -- metronidazole (MetroGel, Flagyl), and clindamycin (Cleocin). These medications can take the form of creams, gels, or tablets. It is important that the doctor’s orders be followed completely, and the full recommended antibiotic course prescribed be used, in order to avoid a recurrence of bacterial vaginitis due to a lack of proper elimination.


Bacterial vaginitis has the potential to cause serious complications. If the woman is pregnant at the time of the condition, bacterial vaginitis can cause premature delivery of the child and/or a low birth rate. Other serious complications of this type of vaginitis are applicable to any woman and include an increased risk for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, as well as HIV.