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Facts About...

Bacterial Vaginosis

What is it?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by the overgrowth of vaginal bacteria. BV is only found in women and is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). BV is more common in women who are sexually active, have a new sexual partner, or have many sexual partners. BV can cause problems when pregnant, or when having a vaginal medical procedure. A vaginal sample is sent to the lab and tested for the bacteria that cause BV.

How is it spread?

BV does not spread to male sexual partners. BV is more common in women who have sex with women. Vaginal douching (when a woman puts a liquid inside her vagina to rinse it out) can increase a woman’s risk for infection. The use of an intra-uterine device (IUD), and smoking can also increase the risk for BV.

What do I look for?

Many women do not have any symptoms of BV. Some women may have an increase in thin, gray, watery or white vaginal discharge that is sticky. Some women notice a fish-like odour, strongest after sexual intercourse. Some women can feel vaginal itching or burning. Many things can cause changes in vaginal discharge, including some STIs.

How is it treated?

BV can clear on its own without any treatment. If you have symptoms, your health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic or recommend an over-the-counter medication. It is important to finish all of the medication as directed, even if you are feeling better. Return of BV may occur, and repeat testing and treatment may be needed.

How can I protect myself?

Avoid activities which can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina including: limiting the number of sex partners, being abstinent, not douching and not smoking. BV can put a woman at greater risk for STIs, including HIV/AIDS. Protect yourself with a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

August 11, 2015