Get Informed Topics Safer Sex & STIs Types of STIs BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS (BV)


What is bacterial vaginosis?

  • Bacterial vaginosis, sometimes called BV, is a bacterial infection that occurs when there is an imbalance of the normal bacteria in the vagina. It is not an STI.
  • Bacterial vaginosis can cause bothersome symptoms, but in most cases it is not harmful to your health and it’s not contagious.

How do you get bacterial vaginosis?

  • Although BV is more common in people who have sex, it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you do not have a vagina, you cannot get BV.
  • Factors that can increase your risk of getting BV include douching, taking antibiotics, hormonal changes, smoking cigarettes, menstruation or your period, foreign bodies such as tampons, diaphragms, sponges, menstrual cups, IUDs and sexual fluids such as semen/cum, vaginal fluid from a new partner.
  • BV is more common in lesbian or bisexual women and girls. 

How do you know if you have bacterial vaginosis?

  • Discharge from your vagina that is thin, white or grey.
  • Discharge from your vagina that has an odour that is unusual for you. It can sometimes have a fish-like smell, especially after vaginal sex.
  • You may have itching or burning around or inside your vagina.
  • You may experience burning when you urinate (pee) or when you have vaginal sex.
  • Many people do not have any symptoms.

How and where can you get tested for bacterial vaginosis?

  • You can get tested for BV in most public or private health facilities in your area. Find a clinic near you in the clinic finder here (Link)
  • A clinician may be able to tell by looking at the discharge from your vagina, however, they will most likely take a swab from your vagina.
  • Because the symptoms of BV can be similar to other infections, it is important to get tested to ensure you get the correct treatment for the infection you have.

What if you test positive for bacterial vaginosis?

  • If you test positive for BV, it means you have it.
  • You don’t have to get treated for BV. It will often go away on its own. However, if your symptoms are bothering you, you may want to get treated.
  • Research has shown that having BV can increase your risk of getting HIV if you have unprotected vaginal sex with someone who has HIV.
  • Your clinician will provide treatment if you have BV 
  • You can be treated with prescription antibiotics such as flagyl or clindamycin. The infection can be treated by taking a medication by mouth, or by inserting a medicated gel into the vagina.

Remember: Avoid drinking alcohol for 24 hours before starting these medications and for another 48 hours after finishing it to avoid nausea and vomiting.

  • If you feel better, you do not need a follow-up.
  • If your sexual partner(s) has a vagina, talk with your clinician and partner about them getting tested.

How can you lower your risk of getting bacterial vaginosis?

  • Some people keep getting BV while others may never get it. If you keep getting BV, try some of the following tips:
  • If your sexual partner(s) has a penis, try using condoms for vaginal sex.
  • Do not use pads, tampons, or bath products that are perfumed or coloured.
  • Wear unbleached, cotton underwear during the day. It’s better not to wear underwear when you sleep.
  • Avoid tight fitting pants, tights or nylons.
  • Do not douche or use feminine hygiene sprays, wipes or soaps. Your vagina cleans itself.
  • Change out of your wet bathing suit or sweaty exercise clothes as soon as possible.
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