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Bacterial Vaginosis

  • very common
  • easily treated
  • needs to be diagnosed by a health care professional

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

There are many different kinds of bacteria growing in your vagina. These bacteria are completely normal and actually protect the vagina. However, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance of these different kinds of bacteria. The most common is an overgrowth of gardnerella vaginalis.

BV is the most common vaginal infection in people of childbearing age. BV is also very common among pregnant people. This can be dangerous because BV during pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of miscarriage (particularly in the first trimester). BV is also associated with premature delivery, low birth weight, and pelvic inflammatory disease. For all these reasons, it is important to talk to a health care professional if you think you may have BV. You can get tested for BV at your local Planned Parenthood health center.

What are the symptoms of BV?

Sometimes BV has no symptoms at all. Other times, bacterial vaginosis symptoms may include:

  • thick, frothy discharge that is usually white or grey
  • a strong fishy smell, especially after sex
  • itching, burning, or other pain
What Are the Treatments for BV?

BV can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your health care provider. These antibiotics are an easy and painless way to treat BV.

Although BV can go away on its own, treatment is important because having BV can increase your susceptibility to:

  • HIV infection
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea

Treatment is also particularly important for pregnant women to avoid complications during pregnancy.

What You Can Do

Learn More

Bacterial vaginosis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection. But having sex with a new partner, or multiple partners, may increase your risk for BV.

Need Insurance?

Planned Parenthood provides high-quality care — whether you have insurance or not. If you don't have insurance, then Planned Parenthood offers one-on-one help with enrollment.


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