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Bacterial Vaginosis

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Bacterial Vaginosis


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina. Early treatment can lower the risk of problems.


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Bacteria can always be found in the vagina. An infection happens when the bacteria are out of balance. This lets unhealthy bacteria grow and spread. It is not always known why this happens.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of BV are:

  • Having a new sex partner or more than one partner
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
  • Smoking
  • Douching


Some women will not have symptoms of BV. Others may have:

  • Pain, itching, or burning of the vagina
  • A burning feeling while urinating
  • A fish-like odor, especially after sex


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your sexual history. A physical and pelvic exam will be done.

Vaginal fluid may be tested to look for signs of infection.


The infection will be treated with antibiotic pills or creams.


The risk of BV may be lowered by:

  • Abstaining from sex
  • Limiting sex to one partner
  • Not using douches
  • Using latex condoms during sex




  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Vaginitis in Nonpregnant Patients: ACOG Practice Bulletin, Number 215. Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Jan;135(1):e1-e17.
  • Bacterial vaginosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm.
  • Bacterial vaginosis. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bacterial-vaginosis.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bacterial-vaginosis-bv.


  • Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.