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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

What is it?

Bacterial vaginosis is a common cause of vaginal discharge in women. It is not a sexually transmitted infection.

How is it passed on?

BV only affects women. It can be passed between female partners but not men

The following can make you more likely to develop BV:

  • Bubble baths, scented shower gel or soaps
  • Vaginal deodorant
  • Douching (cleaning out the vagina)
  • Antiseptic liquids in the bath
  • Use strong detergents to wash your underwear
  • Semen in the vagina after unprotected sex
  • Having a IUD fitted
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of BV in an increase in vaginal discharge, which has a fishy smell

How do you test for it?

BV is diagnosed by examination. Sometimes as a sample of vaginal discharge will be looked at under a microscope in clinic to diagnose BV.

What is the treatment?

BV may settle by itself but it is usually treated with antibiotics. Sometimes you may be given a cream or gel to use instead.

Lactic acid gels which restore the normal pH balance of the vagina can be used to prevent or treat BV – these can be bought over the counter without a prescription.

Find out how to avoid STIs.