Can BV Cause Abdominal Pain?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. It is caused by an imbalance in the normal bacterial flora of the vagina, leading to overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

BV usually does not cause any noticeable symptoms but can sometimes result in abnormal vaginal discharge, a fishy odor, burning during urination, and itching or irritation. This variability often leads to a crucial question: Can BV cause abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is not typically a symptom of BV, but in rare cases, it might be associated with abdominal discomfort or pain. In most cases, if BV is causing abdominal pain it is likely because of complications of the infection such as a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or due to a co-occurring infection or condition.

Continue reading to learn more about the possible causes of abdominal pain related to BV and how to address them.

Key Takeaways:

  • BV is a common condition caused by an imbalance in vaginal bacteria.
  • Abdominal pain is not a typical symptom of BV, but it can be present in rare cases.
  • Common symptoms of BV include abnormal vaginal discharge, a fishy odor, and burning or itching.
  • If abdominal pain is present with BV, it is likely due to complications or co-occurring conditions.
  • If you’re experiencing abdominal pain along with symptoms of BV, you may be dealing with a separate condition that has overlapping symptoms, resulting in a misdiagnosis.
  • If you are experiencing persistent abdominal pain, it is important to seek medical attention to identify the cause and receive proper treatment.

Table of Contents

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

When the bacteria that naturally reside in the vagina grow out of control, bacterial vaginosis (BV) can occur. The bacteria most often responsible for this type of infection is Gardnerella vaginalis (G. vaginalis) because it is the most prevalent bacteria in the vagina.

Symptoms of BV

In most cases, those with BV will not have any symptoms. Additionally, if someone has symptoms, they are often mild enough to remain unnoticed or come and go, making it difficult to ascertain their cause.

If they do occur, the signs of BV may include:

  • unusual consistency of the vaginal fluid
  • thin, white, gray, or green vaginal discharge
  • vaginal itching
  • fishy-smelling vaginal odor
  • burning when urinating

Causes of BV

Bacterial vaginosis results from an imbalance in the vaginal pH level, which may occur from:

  • using scented products
  • douching
  • sexual activity

These acts can potentially change the vaginal pH level or balance of bacteria in the vagina, allowing certain types of bacteria to overgrow and cause problems.

Risk Factors of BV

One risk factor for BV is having multiple sexual partners, although scientists are unsure why. Still, research has shown that BV is more common in those with multiple sexual partners or a new partner. Additionally, women who have sex with other women are at a higher risk of developing BV.

Other risk factors for BV include:

  • vaginal douching
  • recent antibiotic use
  • smoking
  • using an intrauterine device (IUD)

Pregnancy also increases the risk of BV, with up to 30% of pregnant women experiencing BV during their pregnancy. 

BV is also the most common vaginal infection for women between the ages of 15 and 44, so it is a common occurrence even for those not falling within the risk categories listed above.

Can BV Cause Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain is not a common symptom of BV and is typically not caused by the infection itself. However, in some rare cases, abdominal discomfort or pain may be associated with BV. This can occur for a few reasons:

  • Complications of BV: If left untreated, BV can lead to more severe infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID occurs when the bacteria from the vagina travel into other reproductive organs, causing inflammation and pain in the abdomen.
  • Co-occurring infection or condition: Abdominal pain may also arise if there is a co-occurring infection or condition present along with BV. For example, some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause abdominal pain as well as symptoms similar to BV.
  • Misdiagnosis: In some cases, if someone is experiencing abdominal pain along with symptoms of BV, it’s possible that they could be dealing with a separate condition that has overlapping symptoms. This can result in a misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment for both abdominal pain and BV.

Seeking medical attention and proper testing can help correctly identify the cause of the abdominal pain and provide appropriate treatment.

Can BV Cause Cramping?

Bacterial vaginosis is not known to directly cause cramping, but it may contribute to abdominal discomfort that can be similar to cramps. Additionally, in severe cases of BV or when complications arise, cramping may occur as a result of the infection spreading beyond the vagina.

What Conditions Could Be Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

If you are experiencing persistent or severe abdominal pain along with symptoms of BV, it may be a sign of another condition or infection. Some possible causes include:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): PID is often caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia or gonorrhea. It can cause abdominal pain, fever, unusual discharge, and pain during intercourse or urination. The symptoms can be similar to BV, but PID typically includes abdominal pain.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): UTIs can cause pain or burning during urination, frequent urination, and pelvic discomfort. While UTIs don’t typically cause vaginal discharge, the urinary symptoms can be confused with BV.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can produce symptoms similar to BV, including abnormal discharge and genital irritation. Some STIs can also cause abdominal pain.
  • Yeast Infections: These infections can cause itching, swelling, and discharge, which might be mistaken for BV. Unlike BV, yeast infections usually cause a thick, white discharge and more intense itching.

How to Relieve Abdominal Pain and Cramping?

If you have abdominal pain along with other symptoms associated with BV, you should seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause. Your doctor may perform tests to confirm a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Aside from treating the underlying condition responsible for abdominal pain, there are some measures you can take at home to alleviate discomfort.

The general recommendation for reducing pain would be placing a heating pad on the site of your pain. For cases of cramping, in particular, the heat can help relax your muscles, which can reduce any pain felt.

Another option is taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen, to help reduce pain.

How to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis?

Beyond wanting to get rid of the unpleasant symptoms of BV, treating your infection is crucial for preventing complications such as:

  • contracting STIs
  • developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • premature delivery for pregnant women
  • complications during pregnancy
  • developing fertility problems due to STIs and PID

The following are some ways to treat BV:

Antibiotics

When it comes to treating BV, the standard treatment is prescription antibiotics, including metronidazole or clindamycin. These antibiotics come as pills, creams, gels, or ovule suppositories.

For those experiencing adverse side effects from these two antibiotics, doctors may instead prescribe tinidazole, which is given as a pill.

Some of these medications are also available over the counter, although they will likely be at a lower dose than you would find with a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, it is crucial that you are certain that you have BV, as taking these medications if the cause of your discomfort is something else can risk the infection being left untreated for longer, which may result in the development of more serious medical conditions such as PID.

Other options

There are also some at-home treatment options for BV. One option is probiotics, which are good bacteria that can help control the overgrowth of bacteria causing your BV. Research into probiotics as a treatment has shown that taking probiotics daily may help treat BV.

Probiotics are naturally found in certain foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, but they can also be purchased as a supplement.

Another at-home treatment option for BV is garlic, but it should only be taken orally, as vaginal use has been shown to burn vaginal tissue.

Garlic contains strong antibacterial properties, and a 2020 review showed that it is a viable option for treating BV, although antibiotics remain more effective.

But do keep in mind that while some may swear by these natural remedies, the verdict is still out on their effectiveness and the best course of action is to seek guidance from a doctor.

When to See a Doctor?

If you have any symptoms of BV, it is recommended to see a doctor. While some cases of BV can clear up on their own, that is not always the case and treatment is crucial for preventing complications.

BV symptoms may overlap with those of other infections or conditions, making it essential to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional.

If you have been diagnosed with BV and have abdominal pain or cramping, it is important to follow up with your doctor as soon as possible. You may have a more severe condition that requires further medical attention.

Additionally, contact your doctor if you have the following:

  • new or worse vaginal discharge
  • recurring BV
  • vaginal sores
  • new or worse itching
  • fever

In Conclusion

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection resulting when the vaginal microbiome is thrown off balance, causing certain bacteria to overgrow. While half of those with BV have no symptoms, the other half may experience changes to the look, consistency, and smell of their vaginal discharge along with itching and burning when urinating.

BV itself does not cause abdominal pain or cramping. However, it is possible that due to complications or a co-occurring infection, these symptoms may arise. But it may also be the result of another health issue that may present overlapping symptoms with BV.

Therefore it is crucial to seek medical attention and receive proper treatment to prevent further complications.

Remember, if you have any symptoms of BV or are experiencing abdominal pain or cramping along with other BV symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Key Takeaways:

  • BV is a common condition caused by an imbalance in vaginal bacteria.
  • Abdominal pain is not a typical symptom of BV, but it can be present in rare cases.
  • Common symptoms of BV include abnormal vaginal discharge, a fishy odor, and burning or itching.
  • If abdominal pain is present with BV, it is likely due to complications or co-occurring conditions.
  • If you’re experiencing abdominal pain along with symptoms of BV, it’s possible that you’re dealing with a separate condition that has overlapping symptoms, resulting in a misdiagnosis.
  • If you are experiencing persistent abdominal pain, it is important to seek medical attention to identify the cause and receive proper treatment.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information click here.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

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