Can BV Cause Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain is never pleasant, but it can be even stranger when accompanied by changes in vaginal discharge or insatiable itching of your “privates.” If you can relate, you may be suffering from BV, which is the most common vaginal infection for women.

Still, it’s only natural to wonder if your abdominal pain is from BV or something else, so we have compiled this guide to help you identify other symptoms of BV and what to do if you’re not sure about the cause of your pain.

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
  • cigarette 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 can be a common occurrence in women, which can lead many to wonder if infection is a possible cause. That can be the case with BV, which can cause abdominal pain. Still, abdominal pain is not as common of symptoms as itching or burning in the vagina, and not everyone experiences symptoms from BV, so abdominal pain is not always present.

For those with abdominal pain, one way to determine if it is from BV is to look for other symptoms of BV, such as an increase in vaginal discharge with an unpleasant, fishy smell.

As for why abdominal pain may occur, the bacteria that overgrow to cause BV result in inflammation and irritation. In addition to potentially causing pain in the vagina, this pain may also radiate to the lower abdomen, resulting in abdominal pain.

Can BV Cause Cramping?

If you are experiencing cramping alongside a smelly vaginal discharge or itchiness, the cause may be BV.

One possibility for how BV may cause cramping involves its potential to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This condition results from an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, or ovaries due to bacteria moving from the vagina. As such, BV that is left untreated may cause PID.

In addition to abdominal pain, PID may cause abdominal cramping or even vaginal cramping alongside symptoms such as bleeding between periods, pain during sex, and unusual vaginal discharge.

However, it’s also possible that you have another infection in the pelvic area that is responsible for cramping. For instance, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections can both cause abdominal pain and cramping in some cases.

How to Relieve Abdominal Pain and Cramping From BV?

Generally, the best way to relieve abdominal pain and cramping from BV is by treating the infection, which will help relieve symptoms in just a few days.

Otherwise, general recommendations for reducing pain apply, such as 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:


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 potential at-home treatments for BV do not require prescription medication. 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 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.

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. Your doctor can help by prescribing an antibiotic so that your infection, and the symptoms it causes, go away.

If you completed your prescription or OTC antibiotic and your symptoms persist after 7 days, reach out to your doctor.

Additionally, contact your doctor if you have the following:

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

Key Takeaways

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.

Another potential symptom of BV is abdominal pain and cramping, resulting from the inflammation and irritation caused by the bacteria. However, other infections, such as UTIs and yeast infections, can also cause these symptoms, which makes it easy to mix up the cause of your discomfort. Furthermore, untreated BV may become PID, which also has these symptoms.

If you suspect that you have BV, it’s best to reach out to your doctor. With DrHouse, you can conveniently meet with an online doctor in just 15 minutes to discuss your symptoms, possible causes, and treatment options.  


DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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