Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal condition in women ages 15-44. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is too much of certain bacteria in the vagina. This changes the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. Researchers don’t know the cause of BV or how some women get it. They do know that the condition typically occurs in sexually active women. Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners, as well as douching, can upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina. This places a woman at increased risk for getting BV.
Most women found to have BV (84%) reported no symptoms. Those with symptoms may notice a thin white or gray vaginal discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning in the vagina. Some women have a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex. Other symptoms include burning when urinating, itching around the outside of the vagina, or both.
BV will sometimes go away without treatment. But if you have symptoms of BV, you should be checked and treated. It is important that you take all of the medicine prescribed to you, even if your symptoms go away. A health care provider can treat BV with antibiotics, but BV may recur even after treatment.
Male sex partners of women diagnosed with BV generally do not need to be treated. BV may be transferred between female sex partners.
Left untreated, BV can increase the chance of getting other STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. These bacteria also may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can make it difficult or impossible for you to have children.