Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a condition in women where the balance of bacteria normally found in the vagina is disrupted. The cause of this imbalance is not fully understood. BV is not a sexually transmitted disease in the conventional sense – any woman can get BV, even those who have never had sex. However, sexually active women are at increased risk of BV and the reasons for this are unclear.
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Signs and Symptoms
- Some women have no symptoms
- Strong “fishy” vaginal odor, especially after sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge – white or grey, watery or foamy
- Pain during urination
- Vaginal itching
It is unclear what causes the imbalance in vaginal bacteria that leads to BV. However, some behaviors can increase a woman’s risk of BV:
- Having a new sex partner
- Having multiple sex partners
- In pregnant women, having BV can increase risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.
- Having BV makes it easier to transmit or acquire HIV during sex.
- Avoiding vaginal sex may reduce a woman’s risk of getting BV.
- Limit the number of sex partners.
- To maintain “healthy” vaginal bacteria, do not douche.
Testing and Treatment
- Get a test from a medical provider if infection is suspected.
- BV can be cured using medication prescribed by a medical provider.
- Male sex partners do not need to be treated at the same time.
NOTE: BV can recur after treatment.
For more information:
STD, HIV and TB Section
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Family Planning
and STD Hotline
1-800-783-2287 Voice/TTY; 651-645-9360 (Metro)
Disease Information: CDC
CDC overview of vaginitis: signs and symptoms, transmission, complications, prevention and treatment.
CDC’s latest treatment guidelines for STDs.
- The STD Treatment Guidelines are also available as a mobile app for download on both Apple and Android. Check out your device’s app store for more information.
To Live By: Vaginitis: ASHA
American Social Health Association overview of NGU: signs and symptoms, transmission, complications, prevention.
Planning and STD Hotline
Toll-free hotline for confidential information about the prevention, testing locations and treatment of STDs in Minnesota (1-800-78-FACTS)
National STD and AIDS Hotlines
1-800-CDC-INFO; 1-888-232-6348 TTY
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