Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very common cause of an abnormal vaginal discharge.
Those with BV have an imbalance among the normal bacteria that are usually found in the vagina.
It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
The vagina normally contains mostly ‘good‘ bacteria (called lactobacilli) which keep the vaginal fluid mildly acidic, and fewer ‘bad’ bacteria (called anaerobes).
BV develops when there is an increase in the number of ‘bad’ bacteria and the chemistry of the vaginal fluid is disturbed and becomes more alkaline.
It is unclear what leads to these changes in the levels of bacteria that cause BV.
BV isn’t classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but you’re at a higher risk of developing the condition if you’re sexually active. There’s evidence that having BV can make you more at risk of catching STIs such as chlamydia. This is possible because the change in bacteria levels inside the vagina reduces the protection against infection.
If you have BV you may be able to pass the condition to sexual partners if they have a vagina, although it’s not clear how this happens. There’s no evidence to suggest the bacteria causing BV can affect male sexual partners.
There are also a number of other factors that can increase your risk of developing BV, including:
BV is more common in women who use a coil for contraception and those who perform vaginal douching (cleaning out the vagina).
The causes of BV aren’t fully understood, so it’s not possible to prevent it completely. However, you may be able to lower your risk of developing the condition if you:=
Vaginal soreness or itching does not usually occur although there is often a vaginal discharge. The discharge may:
Around half of those with BV show no symptoms.
Visit a sexual health clinic (we run specific LBTQ clinics) if you notice any abnormal discharge from your vagina (especially if pregnant). It’s essential to get this checked to rule out other infections and prevent complications.
BV can usually be successfully treated using a short course of antibiotic tablets or an antibiotic gel you apply inside your vagina.
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