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What is bacterial vaginosis?

BV is a common condition that affects many women. If you're experiencing a thin grey or white discharge and/or a fishy smell, this could be BV.

Need bacterial vaginosis treatment?

Clinical review within 2–24 hrs

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

Symptoms include a thin grey or white vaginal discharge and/or a fishy smell.

Soreness and itching are not common symptoms of BV. If you’re experiencing these, it could be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or other infection. Please make sure to get tested if this is a concern.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

BV is caused by a change in the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. It’s most likely to occur in women between the ages of 18 and 50 who are sexually active.

What can I do to avoid getting bacterial vaginosis?

There are some factors that can upset the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina and should be avoided:

  • The use of perfumed ‘intimate hygiene’ products
  • Vaginal douching (pushing water into your vagina)
  • Adding perfumed oils and soaps to your bath water
  • The use of strong detergent to wash your underwear
  • Wearing thongs and/or tight nylon tights

Some things which may help to avoid getting BV are:

  • Using a condom and/or water-based lubricant during sex
  • Having showers rather than baths
  • Only washing your vulva and vagina once a day, using water only
  • Seeking treatment for heavy periods

Is bacterial vaginosis a sexually transmitted infection?

BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But a new vaginal discharge or any soreness or itching could be signs of an STI. If you’re sexually active and this applies, we recommend testing for STIs.

If you experience BV regularly, it could put you at higher risk of getting an STI. Make sure to seek advice and treatment from your GP or sexual health clinic if this is a concern.

Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 21/06/2021

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