What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

December 19, 2022 3 min read

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a condition found in women that occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. The Centres of Disease Control and Prevention defines BV as the “result of an imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘harmful’ bacteria in your vagina.” This condition upsets the natural balance of your vagina which can cause inflammation and discomfort. Women are most likely to contract bacterial vaginosis in their reproductive years however it can affect women of any age.



The cause of BV isn’t entirely understood but research has found that BV is more common in women who are sexually active. They do not know how sex causes BV however having BV can increase the likelihood of contracting other STD’s. Women who have female sexual partners may be at higher risk than women who only have male sexual partners. Although this is the case, there is also no research implying that treating a sex partner affects the other partner contracting BV. BV rarely affects women who have never had sex. It can also develop after intercourse with a new partner. Activities such as unprotected sex, having multiple sexual partners, intercourse with a new sexual partner and frequent douching may increase your chances of contracting BV. Please note that bacterial vaginosis may occur at the same time as sexually transmissible infections.



Although many people with BV do not have symptoms, some symptoms of BV include:

  • A thin watery white, grey or green vaginal discharge
  • A strong unusual ‘fishy’ vaginal odor (particularly after intercourse)
  • Vaginal burning during urination
  • Vaginal itchiness/discomfort



The following may not prevent you from contracting BV but it may lower your chances of contracting it.

  • Minimise vaginal irritation: Use mild, fragrance free soaps and unscented period care
  • Don’t douche: Frequent douching can disrupt your vaginal pH balance and can increase your chances of infection. Your vagina doesn’t require cleansing more than normal bathing as it is self-cleaning. Douching will not clear up a vaginal infection, in fact it may make it worse.
  • Avoid contracting STI’s: Use a male latex condom when having sex, limit your number of sexual partners or refrain from having intercourse.



If you aren’t showing any symptoms of BV, treatment is not usually required as the condition will go away by itself.  If you do show symptoms of BV, consider talking to your healthcare provider who may examine your vagina and take a sample of vaginal fluid. A doctor can treat BV with antibiotics which can come in the form of a tablet or cream that you can put inside your vagina. Most women with BV only need to take antibiotics for a week, but if symptoms continue, you may need to take antibiotics for up to six months. If you receive antibiotics from your doctor, it is important to finish the course of what they have prescribed you even if symptoms subside. Treatment may also lower the risk of contracting other STD’s although BV can return even after you receive treatment.  


Seek treatment for bacterial vaginosis if:

  • You may have a medical procedure soon that could allow bacteria into your uterus. (e.g., insertion of an IUD or termination of pregnancy)
  • You are currently pregnant, BV can cause early onset of labour
  • You are experiencing symptoms and they are affecting your quality of life and sex



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Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.



Additional Resources

Better Health Channel. (2022). Bacterial vaginosis.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/bacterial-vaginosis

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Basic Fact Sheet.https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Bacterial Vaginosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352279

The Royal Women’s Hospital. (n.d). Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/vulva-vagina-problems/bacterial-vaginosis-bv/

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