Carmen (not her real name), 27, is a film editor in Los Angeles who has had repeat infections of bacterial vaginosis (BV). She has learned to master the treatment so that BV is not such a big deal anymore

By As told to: Louise Sloan
February 29, 2016

couple-bed-legsBacterial vaginosis is not considered an STD, but it can be exacerbated by sex.(GETTY IMAGES)The first time I had BV, I was in grad school in 2004. I had been dating my boyfriend for two years and I freaked out. I thought he gave me an STD. My vagina was on fire. I had this weird discharge and itched like I've never itched before. I thought he gave me the clap or whatever.

I didn't confront him at first. I went to the gyno. The doctor told me you get it from sex but that my partner was probably fine. They don't consider it an STD; it's exacerbated by sex. But I hadn't had an STD before and I wasn't used to the extreme itching. I was pissed. I had to take this nasty pill that made me feel disgusting.

More about BV

Infected again
Later I got another case of BV. I'd hooked up with this guy and he got his finger near my ass and then put it in my vagina. Basically BV is this umbrella term for a couple different types of bacteria that you can have an overgrowth of. That time I got it because the guy that I hooked up with wasn't being very sanitary.

I got it one other time recently. I realized that I had a sinus infection and the flu and a new sexual partner my immune system was down. Any bacteria that he had in his mouth, his fingers, etc., basically set me off.

Next Page: Oral antibiotics treat BV, but I prefer topical cream or gel [ pagebreak ]Oral antibiotics treat BV, but I prefer topical cream or gel
At first they gave me hard-core antibiotics. I had a lot of side effects. My urine was really dark, I had to pee all the time. Horrible stomach cramps, bad headaches, dizziness, and a really awful metallic taste in my mouth; my ears were ringing. It was the worst! You can't have any alcohol at all. I couldn't even use mouthwash or I'd vomit. I took that same pill when I had giardia.

hands-bv-gel-treatmentTopical creams and gels are an alternative to oral antibiotics for the treatment of BV.(MASTERFILE)But later I could use topical antibiotic gel, which was great. It was much better than the oral antibiotics. It's clear, doesn't smell like anything, and it didn't make me vomit. This last time I went in for BV, the doctor gave me a new suppository cream that cleared it up instantly. That stuff is a miracle cream.

Then at my recent visit with my new gyno, I learned they have a new product available over-the-counter—you can ask your pharmacist. You can test your own pH to see if its a yeast infection that can be treated with Monistat (miconazole), or if you need to go to your doctor and find out if it's BV.

Obviously the creams are messier than taking pills. And the other downside is that, if they are made with oil, they can make condoms less effective. But I feel like the side effects of the suppositories were a lot easier to deal with than the side effects of the oral antibiotic. The messiness kind of reminded me not to have sex. I think it's important, when you have BV, to skip the sex. Give your body a rest.