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Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that happens when there is too much of certain bacteria in the vagina. This changes the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44.

  • How is bacterial vaginosis spread?

    Researchers do not know the cause of BV or how some women get it. We do know that the infection typically occurs in sexually active women. BV is linked to an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria that are normally found in a woman’s vagina. Having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, as well as douching, can upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina. This places a woman at increased risk for getting BV. We also do not know how sex contributes to BV. There is no research to show that treating a sexual partner affects whether or not a woman gets BV. Having BV can increase your chances of getting other STIs.

  • How do I know if I have bacterial vaginosis?

    Many women with BV do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may notice:

    • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge;
    • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina;
    • A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex;
    • Burning when urinating;
    • Itching around the outside of the vagina.
  • Can bacterial vaginosis be cured?

    BV will sometimes go away without treatment. But if you have symptoms of BV you should be checked and treated. It is important that you take all of the medicine prescribed to you, even if your symptoms go away. A health care provider can treat BV with antibiotics, but BV may return even after treatment. Treatment may also reduce the risk for some STIs.

    Male sex partners of women diagnosed with BV generally do not need to be treated. BV may be transmitted between female sexual partners.

    BV can cause some serious health risks, including:

    • Increasing your chance of getting HIV if you have sex with someone who is infected with HIV;
    • If you are HIV positive, increasing your chance of passing HIV to your sexual partner;
    • Increasing your chance of getting other STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.