Sexually Transmitted Diseases
        What are STDs
        Common STDs
        Tests for STDs
        Preventing STDs
        I Have STDs
        Pregnancy Concerns
        Treatments for STDs
        Bacterial Vaginosis
        Genital Herpes
        Genital Warts
        Hepatitis C
        HIV & AIDS
        HIV Self Test
        Human Papillomavirus
        Yeast Infections
        Condom Information
        Male Condoms
        Female Condoms
        Dental Dam
        Personal Lube
        STD News

Health Information:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Learn more about how to prevent and heal your body from these diseases:

   Venereal Diseases
   Bacterial Vaginosis
   Human Papilloma Virus
   Anal Warts

Shaving Prevention
Prevent pubic shaving sores that lead to open gateways for STDs.

   Razor Burn
   Ingrown Hair

Pap Smear
Pap smear test can detect early signs of HPV and help prevent cervical cancer.

   Pap Smear

Vaginal Yeast Infection
Yeast infections seem to be only rarely passed from one person to another through sexual contact.

A male partner of a woman with a yeast infection usually will have no symptoms, but some men may get an itchy rash on the penis.

   Vaginal Yeast Infection


You are here: Sexually Transmitted Diseases > Bacterial Vaginosis

what are sexually transmitted diseases
Learn about Bacterial Vaginosis treatments.

What is bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial Vaginosis is a type of vaginal infection that any woman can get. Chances are you have heard more about yeast infections than BV, but BV (not yeast) is the most common type of vaginal infection in women of childbearing age.

BV is often confused with yeast infections - they are not the same thing and they require different types of treatment. BV is linked to normal bacteria (germs) in the vagina getting out of balance. All women have mostly "good" and some "harmful" bacteria present in their vaginas. When harmful bacteria in the vagina increase, or overgrow, BV can develop. Yeast infections are caused by the yeast Candida, which also overgrows when the normal balance of the vagina becomes disturbed.

What are the signs of BV?
The main sign of BV is vaginal discharge (fluid from the vagina) with a fish-like odor. Some women say the odor is stronger after having sex. The discharge can be white (milky) or gray and it can be thin. Burning or pain when urinating can occur. While not common, itching around the outside of the vagina and redness can also occur. It is important to know, though, that many women with BV have no symptoms at all.

How do women get BV? Is there anything that can put a woman at greater risk for getting BV?
Any woman can get BV. While not much is known about how a woman gets BV, some things can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and put women more at risk:

  • Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners.
  • Douching.
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control.

BV rarely affects women who have never had sexual intercourse. If you are pregnant and have BV, you are more at risk for certain problems. These can include having babies born early or with low birth weight

How can I find out if I have BV?
The only way to know for sure if you have BV is to have a lab test. Your health care provider will take a sample of fluid from your vagina and send it to a lab to check for bacterias that are linked to BV.

Does BV cause any problems?
In most cases, BV doesn't cause any problems. But, there can be some serious risks when a woman has BV:

  • Pregnant women with BV more often have babies who are born early or with low birth weight.

  • The bacteria that cause BV can sometimes cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of a woman's uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). PID can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant). It can also increase a woman's risk for ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy occurs outside the uterus), which can be life threatening.

  • Having BV can make a woman more at risk for getting infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

  • If a woman has HIV and BV, she is more likely to pass HIV to her sex partner.

  • BV can increase a woman's chances of getting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

How is BV treated?
BV is treated with antimicrobial medicines you get from your doctor, such as metronidazole or clindamycin. Both of these drugs can be used when you are pregnant. The dosage (or amount of the drug) will differ when you are pregnant. Women who are HIV positive and have BV get the same treatment as women who are HIV negative.

Most of the time, male sex partners of women with BV are not treated. But, your doctor might want to treat the man if the woman's infection is not cleared up with drugs. Many women don't get treated for BV. But, BV will not go away on its own and must be treated to relieve symptoms and prevent problems such as PID. It is important to know that you can get BV again.

If I have BV, do I need to worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
Even though much is not known or understood about BV, it has been linked with sexual intercourse. Having BV can increase your chances of getting infected with HIV or other STDs. Here are some things you can do to lower your risk for getting an STD:

  • The best way to prevent an STD is to practice abstinence (don't have sex). Delaying having sex for the first time is another way to reduce your chances of getting an STD. Studies show that the younger people are when having sex for the first time, the more likely it is that they will get an STD. The risk of getting an STD also becomes greater over time, as the number of a person's sex partners increases.

  • Have a sexual relationship with one partner who doesn't have any STDs, where you are faithful to each other (meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else).

  • Practice "safer sex." This means protecting yourself with a condom EVERY time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

    For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For anal sex, use a latex male condom. If needed, use only water based lubricants with male and female condoms. For oral sex, use a dental dam - a device used by dentists, made out of a rubbery material, that you place over the opening to the vagina before having oral sex. If you don't have a dental dam, you can cut an unlubricated male condom open and place it over the opening to the vagina.

    Even though it may be embarrassing, if you don't know how to use a male or female condom, talk to your health care provider. The biggest reason condoms don't work is because they are not used correctly.

  • Be aware that condoms don't provide complete protection against STDs. But, they do decrease your chances of getting an STD. Know also that other methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms don't protect you from STDs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a condom every time you have sex.

  • Limit your number of sexual partners. Your risk of getting an STD increases with the number of partners you have.

  • Don't douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This can increase your risk for getting an STD.

  • Learn how to talk with your partner about STDs and using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected. The organizations in the "For more information" at the end of this FAQ have tips for talking with your partner. You can also talk with your health care provider about this.

  • When you are sexually active, especially if you have more than one partner, get regular exams for STDs from a health care provider. Tests for STDs can be done during an exam. And, the earlier an STD is found, the easier it is to treat.

  • Learn the common symptoms of STDs. Seek medical help right away if you think you may have an STD.

What should I do if I have BV?

If you have BV:

  • Get it treated right away. Having BV increases your risk for getting PID or for getting infected with an STD.

  • Follow your health care provider's orders and finish all the medicine that you are given. Even if the symptoms go away, you still need to finish all of the medicine.

  • Avoid having any sexual activity while you are being treated for BV.

  • Be sure to get a follow-up test to make sure that the infection has been cured.

  • If the infection comes back, talk with your health care provider about having your sexual partners treated. Keep in mind, though, that there has been no evidence to date that sexual partners benefit from treatment.