Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection. The number of new cases and the current number of infected individuals is unknown.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include a white or grayish vaginal discharge with an unpleasant, fishy odor. Women may also have burning during urination or itching around the outside of the vagina, or both. However, some women report no signs or symptoms at all.

Can bacterial vaginosis lead to other problems?

Although most cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) are caused by Gonorrhea or Chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis can lead to PID. PID involves a severe infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries which may lead to infertility, tubal pregnancies, and chronic pelvic pain. Bacterial vaginosis also makes you more susceptible to HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are more likely to have babies who are born prematurely or with low birth weight.

How is it transmitted?

It is not transmitted from one person to another like most STDs, but it is associated with having vaginal intercourse.  Women who have a new sex partner or who have had multiple sex partners are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.

How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by your health care provider through a pelvic exam. The vaginal fluid is tested for an increase in harmful bacteria.

How is it treated?

It may be treated and cured with antibiotics administered orally or through a vaginal cream or gel.

Can it be prevented?

It can occur in women who have never had sexual intercourse, but it is rare. The best way to prevent bacterial vaginosis is to refrain from sexual contact of any kind or be in a long-term monogamous relationship such as marriage.

Last Updated: 08/2015

Compiled using information from the following sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Ninth Ed. Scott, James R., et al, Ch. 32.