HomeBacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis is a very common condition that is a frequent cause of vaginal discharge. It is caused by the overgrowth of various bacteria. All our bodies contain harmless bacteria, which help in the defence of the body. Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when there is a change in the balance of bacteria in the vagina and so some thrive and become more prominent than usual. It is not clear why this happens but it is associated with douching, new sexual partners, multiple sexual partners, the copper coil, smoking, using bubblebath, prolonged or heavy periods or hormonal changes.

Free Online Assessment Quick and Without Obligation

Is Bacterial Vaginosis a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

BV is not a classic STI. It can affect any woman, whether or not she is sexually active, but it is more common amongst sexually active women. It is however strongly associated with the presence of certain bacteria which, though present naturally in the flora of some women's vaginas, are often passed on through sexual contact.

Can I get tested for Bacterial Vaginosis?

Laboratory based tests are available for BV, also known as Gardnerella Vaginalis. We recommend The STI Clinic for fast and accurate sexual health checks. The test for BV normally takes 2 - 3 working days to complete.

What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The most common symptom of BV is vaginal discharge. This is often white-grey in colour and can have a fishy smell. The smell can be particularly noticeable after sexual intercourse and some women notice that the discharge is especially heavy after their period or after sex. Some women will experience pain or itching in the vaginal area if infected with BV.

Up to half of all women with BV will not notice any symptoms.

Treatment for BV

Some women will discover that there are abnormal amounts of certain bacteria in their genital system but will decide not to get treated as they are not experiencing symptoms. It is also possible that the body will itself balance the amount of bacteria in the vagina.

Where treatment is desired, then this will normally be a course of the antibiotic Metronidazole. This will either be in two doses for 7 days or in a single dose. Our view is that the 7-day course is more effective. Some people will experience nausea while taking this medication and it is important not to drink alcohol while being treated.

Can I buy Metronidazole to treat Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

If you have tested positive for BV or Gardnerella Vaginalis then you can be treated with a course of Metronidazole. Metronidazole is a prescription medication so you must complete a free consultation form first.

Free Online Assessment Quick and Without Obligation

Prevention of Bacterial Vaginosis

As the bacteria can be transmitted through sexual contact, it is important to wear a condom with any new sexual partners. The chance of developing BV is also believed to be reduced if you avoid douching (pushing water into the vagina), washing around the vagina excessively (once a day is usually enough), using strong detergent to wash your underwear and adding products such as bath oils or scented soaps to bath water.

Reviewed by: Dr Joyce Braaksma
GMC registration number: 4621289
Date: 21 March 2022
Next review: 22 March 2024
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

Sexual Health News

  • Staying Safe in the Bedroom

    Staying Safe in the Bedroom Christmas and New Year is a time for revelry and fun, with plenty of food and drink... as well as more private activities. The downside to the increased sexual activity at this time of the year is the corresponding rise in the number of sexually transmitted…

    Read full article >
  • Chlamydia Testing Explained

    Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that is spread through genital fluids. In 2014, chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI in the UK, followed by genital warts, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.>> The good news is that chlamydia is a bacterial infection, which means it can be…

    Read full article >
  • Herpes Simplex and Alzheimer's

    Only recently have we been talking about the possible relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer's, but two more recent studies have also highlighted a strong association between the herpes simplex virus and this terrible disease of the brain, which causes memory loss. Two studies by Swedish…

    Read full article >
We use cookies on this website. By using this site, you agree that we may store and access cookies on your device. Find out more Close