Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common condition caused by an imbalance in the vagina’s natural bacteria. It occurs when too much of a certain type of bacteria, called "Gardnerella vaginalis", OK grows in the vagina. BV is usually not serious and can be easily treated.

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Typical symptoms of BV include:

  • A grayish-white, thin vaginal discharge
  • An unpleasant “fishy” odor that is most noticeable after intercourse or after your period
  • Itching and burning around the vagina
  • Pain during sex

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

The exact cause of BV is not known, but it is believed to be due to an imbalance in the normal bacteria found in the vagina. BV is also more likely to occur when there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina or when the vagina’s pH becomes imbalanced. Factors associated with the development of BV include multiple sexual partners, frequent douching, and, to a lesser extent, smoking.

Risk Factors for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

The following factors may increase your risk of developing BV:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Having a new sexual partner
  • Douching or other feminine hygiene practices
  • Smoking
  • Weak immune system

Diagnosis of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Your healthcare provider will examine your vagina and take a sample of discharge for testing. This sample will be examined under a microscope to determine if there are an abnormal number of certain types of bacteria present. Other tests can be done to determine the pH level of the vaginal discharge, which can help to confirm the diagnosis of BV.

Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV can usually be effectively treated with antibiotic medications. The most commonly used antibiotics for BV are metronidazole and clindamycin. These medications are usually taken in pill form, but they can also be applied as gels or creams to the vagina. It is important to complete the entire course of treatment, even if the symptoms have improved.