What is Bacterial Vaginosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Bacterial vaginosis is not consider a sexual transmitted infection and is always confused by vaginal yeast infections.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is among the most common kinds of infection in the vagina. This can happen due to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the area. It may not necessarily mean that a woman has poor hygiene when she has bacterial vaginosis. There are a few factors besides hygiene that contribute to this kind of infection.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection in the vagina due to the overgrowth of “bad” anaerobic bacteria. When this occurs, a burning sensation may accompany urination. There may also be vaginal discharge, itchiness and discomfort, and a foul smell in the area.

Now, why does this infection happen to begin with?

Good and bad bacteria naturally reside in the vagina. But sometimes, the number of bad bacteria outnumber the good ones, which may then cause the infection.

Bacterial vaginosis is not a rare vaginal infection. In fact, it is a common bacterial infection among women ages 15 to 44 years old. While not entirely harmless, it is not very serious and treatment for it is available.

Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis

It does not usually lead to other complicated health issues. But when untreated it may put a woman more at risk of sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as herpes and chlamydia. Having BV can also cause pregnancy complications like premature birth, miscarriage, and reproductive and obstetric disorders, which can be life-threatening to women.

Bacterial Vaginosis vs Yeast Infection

Some women may think they have a yeast infection once they see the whitish-greenish discharge or smell the foul odor. The symptoms are similar but here are two basic differences:

  • Discharge from BV is thin, with color ranging from white to green. Yeast infection discharge is thicker and lumpier, with a white color.
  • Bacterial overgrowth causes BV. Overgrowth of Candida albicans, a fungus, causes a yeast infection.

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

  • Increased vaginal discharge that is usually color white, grey, yellow, or green
  • “Fishy” odor in the area
  • Burning sensation during or after urinating
  • Itchiness in the vaginal area
  • Feeling pained during sexual intercourse
  • Thick discharge after period or sex

Risk Factors of Bacterial Vaginosis

  • Smoking
  • Unsafe sexual intercourse
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Anal sex
  • Douching

Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis

Treatment methods vary but doctors usually prescribe antibiotics, which may be taken orally as tablets, or topically as cream or gel. Options may vary for pregnant women as some forms of medication cause issues.

Alternatives to antibiotics are tea tree oil, probiotics, hydrogen peroxide, and garlic.

Do’s and Don’ts If You Have BV


  • Use a gentle soap or just use plain water to avoid irritation
  • Shower instead of taking a bath
  • Use gentle cream as a soothing cream
  • Use condom during sexual intercourse
  • Clean sex toys before using


  • Using vaginal perfume, it will irritate the vaginal area
  • Shower gel and bubble bath
  • Using antiseptic liquid in the bath
  • Using a strong type of detergent for underwear
  • Douching during washing the vagina
  • Having multiple partners

Facts about Bacterial Vaginosis

  • BV is not considered as a sexually transmitted infection but it can lead to STIs.
  • Uncircumcised partners may increase the risk of having BV.
  • Women in menopause can have BV
  • BV may sometimes just go away on its own
  • It may also occur during menstruation
  • Male cannot have bacterial vaginosis
  • Studies show that about 29% of women in the US are affected with BV.

Prevention Tips

  • Do not use scented pads or tampons during menstruation
  • Do not use scented soap and other bath products with heavy fragrance
  • Keep your vagina dry as possible, which means limit the use of douches
  • Stop smoking

Bacterial vaginosis

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