Bacterial Vaginosis

Home » STI Information » STI’S » Bacterial Vaginosis

What Is It?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is caused by the overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria.  The bacteria which normally live within the vagina can become imbalanced; if this happens BV can often develop.  BV can develop in biologically and medically constructed vaginas.


These imbalances can occur at any time but are more likely when:

  • Beginning a new sexual relationship.
  • Using an IUD (coil) for contraception.
  • Vaginal douching (rinsing the inside of the vagina).
  • Engaging in penetrative sexual activity for the first time or after a period of abstinence.



  • In most cases there are no symptoms.
  • An unusual off-white or grey vaginal discharge with an off-fishy smell, particularly after sexual activity.
  • Itching in the genitals and painful swelling of the vulva.



People can transmit BV through rubbing vulvas together and/or sharing sex toys.



  • Using condoms, glyde dams, gloves or female condoms can help prevent BV from being transmitted.
  • If using sex toys, you may use a new condom each time.
  • You can wear latex gloves for fingering or fisting.
  • Try to remember to always wash your hands before and after sexual activity.


It is possible to decrease the incidence of BV by:

  • Not using harsh soaps, antiseptics and sprays in the vaginal area, as they can disrupt your vagina’s normal balance.
  • Regularly penetrating yourself
  • Eating yoghurt that contains active bacteria
  • Wearing loose clothes of natural material
  • Changing your washing powder, soap products or sanitary products
  • Using non-latex condoms or changing to female condoms



As there are a number of different kinds of infection that can cause problems with the vagina and vulva, it is essential that you get advice from your local STI clinic at the first sign of inflammation or unusual discharge.


Your sexual partner(s) may also need treatment as they may be infected even if they do not have symptoms.


BV is easily treated with a single antibiotic tablet available from your local STI clinic or Doctor.


Remember – Regular screening at your local STI clinic is recommended to maintain your sexual health.