by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina. Early treatment can lower the risk of problems.

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Bacteria can always be found in the vagina. An infection happens when the bacteria are out of balance. This lets unhealthy bacteria grow and spread. It is not always known why this happens.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having a new sex partner or more than partner
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
  • Smoking
  • Douching


Some women will not have symptoms. Others may have:

  • Pain, itching, or burning of the vagina
  • A burning feeling while urinating
  • A fish-like odor, especially after sex


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your sexual history. A physical and pelvic exam will be done.

Vaginal fluid may be tested to look for signs of infection.


The infection will be treated with antibiotic pills or creams.


The risk of this health problem may be lowered by:

  • Abstaining from sex
  • Limiting sex to one partner
  • Not using douches
  • Using latex condoms during sex


American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 

Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services 


Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada 

Women's Health Matters 


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Vaginitis in Nonpregnant Patients: ACOG Practice Bulletin, Number 215. Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Jan;135(1):e1-e17.

Bacterial vaginosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated February 16, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.

Bacterial vaginosis. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Accessed February 23, 2021.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed February 23, 2021.

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