Reproductive Health

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

2 min read

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection in your vagina, that is not an STI. Your vagina has healthy bacteria too, but when there is too much of the unhealthy bacteria and it is unbalanced, there can be an infection. BV is the most common vaginal infection for people 15 to 44 years of age.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a disruption in the normal flora (bacteria) of the vagina and an overgrowth of other organisms that lead to an unbalanced environment in the vagina. Though not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), vaginal sex can be a risk factor for BV. Douching or using scented vaginal products can irritate the vagina and alter the pH, which allows bacterial overgrowth and leads to BV.

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

Symptoms tend to be mild, and some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. The most common symptom is vaginal discharge, which is the small amount of liquid you may notice has dried on your underwear during the day. Discharge is most commonly thin and grayish white in color and usually associated with a “fishy” smell.  

How do you diagnose and treat bacterial vaginosis?

A doctor may take a sample of your discharge to test for BV. The doctor will prescribe you with either antibiotic pills that you swallow, or a gel or cream that you put in your vagina.

It’s important not to have sex until you’re finished with the treatment and the infection is gone. With any kind of antibiotics, it’s important to finish the whole treatment even if your symptoms start to go away. If you are taking the antibiotic that is prescribed by mouth, it is important to not drink any alcohol because it can make you feel very sick and can cause severe vomiting.

What happens if bacterial vaginosis is not treated?

It’s possible BV will go away on its own, but it’s important to seek medical advice and treatment because BV can also increase your risk of other health issues, including STIs like HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Bacteria can also cause complications in pregnancy.

If I am diagnosed with BV, does my partner need treatment?

If your partner has a penis there is no recommendation for them to receive treatment. If you have a partner with a vagina then they should speak with a provider about any symptoms they might be experiencing (remember symptoms can be absent) and testing can be offered.  

How can you prevent bacterial vaginosis?

You can limit the number of sexual partners you have, avoid douching or using vaginal cleaning products, incorporate condoms into your sexual practices, and speak to your doctor about hormonal contraception.


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With the participation of
Dr. Eddie Garcia

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