Healthy vaginas come with bacteria in them. But changes in the balance of the different kinds of bacteria in your vagina can lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV).
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What causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis — usually called BV — is a bacterial infection. It happens when the different kinds of healthy bacteria in your vagina get out of balance and grow too much. BV is often caused by gardnerella vaginalis, the most common type of bacteria in your vagina.
Anything that changes the chemistry of your vagina’s pH balance can mess with bacteria levels and lead to infection — like douching or using vaginal deodorants and other irritating products. Learn more about keeping your vagina healthy.
Bacterial vaginosis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection. But having sex with a new partner, or multiple partners, may increase your risk for BV. And sex sometimes leads to BV if your partner's natural genital chemistry changes the balance in your vagina and causes bacteria to grow.
What are bacterial vaginosis symptoms?
BV doesn’t always have symptoms, so many people don’t even know they have it. Sometimes symptoms come and go, or they’re so mild that you don’t notice them.
The main symptom of BV is lots of thin vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy smell. The discharge may be white, dull gray, greenish, and/or foamy. The fishy smell is often more noticeable after vaginal sex.
You may have a little itching or burning when you pee, but many people don’t have noticeable irritation or discomfort.
How do I treat BV?
BV is usually easily cured with antibiotics — either pills that you swallow, or a gel or cream that you put in your vagina. There are a few different antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis treatment, but the most common ones are metronidazole and clindamycin.
Make sure you use all of the medicine the way your doctor says, even if your symptoms go away sooner. And don’t have sex until you finish your treatment and your infection clears up.
If you have BV that keeps coming back, probiotics may help. But ask your doctor before trying any supplements. Your nurse, doctor, or local Planned Parenthood health center can help you figure out the best treatment if you struggle with chronic BV.