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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.

On this page:
Signs and Symptoms
Testing and Treatment
For more information

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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
  • Douching


  • 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
(651) 201-5414

Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline
1-800-783-2287 Voice/TTY; (651) 645-9360 (Metro)

CDC: Vaginitis Disease Information
CDC overview of vaginitis: signs and symptoms, transmission, complications, prevention and treatment.

CDC: STD Treatment Guidelines
CDC’s latest treatment guidelines for STDs.

ASHA: Information To Live By: Vaginitis
American Social Health Association overview of NGU: signs and symptoms, transmission, complications, prevention.

Minnesota Family 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)

CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines
1-800-CDC-INFO; 1-888-232-6348 TTY
1-800-344-7432 (Spanish)

Content Notice: This site contains HIV or STD prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV and other STDs are spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics. If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please exit this web site.

Updated Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 10:30AM