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It Took Doctors Years To Diagnose This Woman With Bacterial Vaginosis, So Now She's Giving Other Women Health Advice On TikTok

If you've ever struggled with getting a spot-on diagnosis, you're not alone.

Whether intentional or not, women have been noticing the gender bias when it comes to medical care. A recent Duke University study shows that one in five women say a healthcare provider has dismissed or ignored their symptoms.

A woman talking to a doctor
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

From having symptoms downplayed to being told it's all in their heads, women are often not taken seriously, especially when it comes to reproductive health.

TV Land/giphy.com / Via TV Land/giphy.com

Danielle Stokes is one of many women who have experienced this. She struggled with recurring vaginal itching and odor for years and was told her period, her underwear, or her detergent was to blame. After trying every solution she could think of, Danielle's symptoms persisted, and after four years, she was finally diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis (BV).

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is too much of a certain bacteria in the vagina, changing its normal pH balance.

Symptoms can include vaginal discharge, odor, itching, or burning while urinating. Women in their reproductive years are most susceptible to BV, but it can affect women of all ages. While there is no known cause for BV, there is evidence that it may be caused by sexual activity or using new vaginal products.

In a now-viral TikTok, Stokes shared that doctors had been consistently ignoring her symptoms. Some doctors even thought Stokes was a hypochondriac and told her that all of her symptoms were in her head.

@roxanneramsey

I’m still shook by the amount of support I get and the community WE created! Y’all are really my besties!💕👯‍♀️👯‍♀️👯‍♀️#bacterialvaginosis #girlssupportgirls #girltalk #femininehealth

♬ original sound - Sarah Cothran

"Can you believe she did not even examine me?" Danielle said of one doctor. "She told me that my charts had me listed as a hypochondriac, and the doctor instructed not to prescribe any meds. I couldn't believe it! Safe to say I never went back to that doctor."

Once Stokes found a doctor who took the time to listen to her symptoms, she began to find relief.

But Danielle's story didn't end there. If she had such a hard time getting her diagnosis, she knew there had to be other women out there who were struggling too. She began posting TikToks about everything from BV warning signs to period tips and advice for UTIs.

@roxanneramsey

If you have any symptoms, get cultures done to determine if it’s BV🗣#bacterialvaginosistalk #bacterialvaginoisis #bvtalksoftiktok #bvtalks

♬ original sound - Tracy Joseph

Danielle now has nearly 500,000 followers on TikTok. She told BuzzFeed that she never expected to gain such a following from discussing women's health.

She advises anyone who is struggling with BV or other vaginal conditions to advocate for themselves and to not stop fighting until they get answers.

@roxanneramsey

I struggled with BV for 4+ years. How long has it been for you?👀 #bacterialvaginosistalks #bvtalk #bvtalkoftiktok #vaginosisbacteriana

♬ original sound - Tik Toker

"If you are experiencing any health issue, do not allow someone to tell you they do not exist," she said. "There are many amazing doctors, but choosing a doctor is like choosing the perfect pair of jeans. It has to be a good fit and relationship. And if it is not, it's OK to change until you get it right."

If bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition among women 15–44, why do some women struggle with getting a diagnosis?

A woman looking at a chart with a doctor
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

To find out, I reached out to Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the founder and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Menopause and the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Health.

Dr. Streicher
John B. Reilly / Via Dr. Lauren Streicher

Dr. Streicher said that BV is so common because there are many things that can throw off vaginal pH.

A person holding their hands over their pelvis
Kamonwan Wankaew / Getty Images/EyeEm

"Anything that throws your pH off can trigger BV," she said. "For some people, it's their period, others could get it from sex. It can be from a new product that you've used, or sometimes, there's no clear explanation at all."

If you suspect you might have BV, Dr. Streicher said it’s important to mention any of these potential causes, in addition to all symptoms, to your physician in order to quickly get the proper diagnosis. 

While there's no one-size-fits-all approach for treating BV, Dr. Streicher recommends working with your doctor to find the best method to eliminate BV.

CBC/giphy.com / Via CBC/giphy.com

"The rate of reoccurrence is quite high, so it's really about finding the antibiotic that's going to do the best job," she said. If you frequently get BV, Dr. Streicher recommends using Rephresh, an over-the-counter vaginal gel, after having sex or getting your period, to prevent recurring infections. 

Danielle said she thinks finding a doctor who listens to all of your symptoms is the key to ensuring you'll receive the best care.

If you want to keep up with Danielle, follow her on TikTok and Instagram. For more vaginal health tips, you can follow Dr. Streicher on Instagram or read her blog, Inside Information.