Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina (birth canal). It is a common condition that may or may not cause symptoms.
It’s normal to have some bacteria in the vagina, but sometimes there are too many of certain types of bacteria. Doctors don’t know what causes this imbalance of bacteria. One possible cause is douching (cleaning out the vagina with water or other fluids).
Most cases of bacterial vaginosis happen in sexually active women. Women who have more than 1 sexual partner have a greater risk of this problem. However, women who are not sexually active can also have vaginosis. Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk.
Many women don’t have any symptoms. When women do have symptoms, the most common symptom is a discharge from the vagina. The discharge may be gray or yellowish and smell bad. For example, it may smell fishy, especially after sex. You may also have itching around the opening of the vagina. Sometimes BV can cause pain or burning in the vagina that does not go away.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will have a pelvic exam, and your provider will get a sample of vaginal discharge for lab tests.
Untreated bacterial vaginosis sometimes goes away on its own. Sometimes, if you scratch the area to relieve itching, you may get an infection. Rarely, it may cause vaginal pain that keeps bothering you. If bacterial vaginosis is causing itching, pain, or other problems, it may need to be treated with antibiotics. The medicine for bacterial vaginosis may be taken by mouth or it may be a cream or gel that you put into the vagina. The symptoms usually go away within a few days after you start treatment.
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.