Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina (birth canal). It is a common condition that may or may not cause symptoms.
It’s normal to have some bacteria in the vagina, but sometimes there are too many of certain types of bacteria. Doctors don’t know what causes this imbalance of bacteria. One possible cause is vaginal douching (cleaning out the vagina with water or other fluids).
Most cases of bacterial vaginosis happen in sexually active women. Women who have more than 1 sexual partner have a greater risk of this problem. However, women who are not sexually active can also have vaginosis.
Many women don’t have any symptoms. When women do have symptoms, the most common symptom is a discharge from the vagina. The discharge may be gray or yellowish and smell bad. For example, it may smell fishy, especially after sex. You may also have itching around the opening of the vagina.
Your healthcare provider will give you a pelvic exam and get a sample of vaginal discharge for lab tests.
Bacterial vaginosis is treated with an antibiotic. The medicine may be taken by mouth or it may be a cream or gel put into the vagina.
Untreated bacterial vaginosis sometimes goes away on its own. It should be treated to avoid complications. The symptoms usually go away within a few days after you start treatment.
Complications from BV could occur, such as soreness and burning in the vagina that do not go away.
Call your healthcare provider during office hours if:
Bacterial vaginosis is not completely understood by scientists, and the best ways to prevent it are not known. However, your chances of having BV are greater when you have a new sex partner or more than 1 partner.
To help lessen the risk of an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina: