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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Symptoms

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis, or “BV,” is a medical condition that occurs when there’s an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in the vagina. BV is the most common vaginal symptom women experience. While it’s unclear what the exact role your level of sexual activity plays in developing BV, it is typically more common in women who are sexually active than those who are not.

“Some women with BV don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms. Having BV can increase your chance of getting an STD.”

- CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL, CDC.GOV

In the United States alone, an estimated 21.2 million (29.2%) women (ages 14–49) currently have BV. What’s even more unsettling is that the majority of women identified to have BV reported minimal or no symptoms.

Quick Facts About BV

  • BV is extremely uncommon among women who’ve never had sex
  • BV cannot be transmitted by contact with bedding, toilet seats, or swimming pools
  • Douching can increase the likelihood of BV
  • Women can still be affected by BV (18.8%) even if they have not recently engaged in vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • It is also very common among pregnant women (25%) and women who have been pregnant (31.7%)
  • Acquiring BV correlates with an increase in the number of your sexual partners
  • Higher rates of BV exist among Non-White women, particularly African-American 51%, Mexican Americans 32%

Is BV Dangerous?

On its own, Bacterial Vaginosis symptoms present a relatively mild health risk, while many patients note unpleasant daily vaginal conditions especially after having sex. However, BV presents significant risk factors by increasing the likelihood of passing or contracting HIV among sexually active women, and BV must be treated in all pregnant women to avoid premature birth (born early) and with low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds).

Serious Health Risks Associated With BV:

  • BV increases your chance of acquiring HIV if your sexual partner is infected with HIV
  • Likewise, individuals that are HIV positive have an increased chance of passing HIV
  • BV increases the likelihood of premature birth in pregnant women
  • BV also increases your chance of getting other STDs, including as chlamydia and gonorrhea
  • The harmful bacteria associated with BV is known to increase pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), making it difficult or impossible for women to have children

What Are The Symptoms Of BV?

While many women do not report or recognize they have BV, experiencing any of the common symptoms is a good enough reason to get checked out by a doctor. One reason BV goes unreported is that many women adjust to some level of day-to-day vaginal discomfort, or in their sexual lives, and do not see a need to seek medical treatment.

Common symptoms of BV include:

  • A strong “fishy” smell, particularly after sex
  • Burning while urinating
  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina

How To Get Rid Of BV?

If you experience any of the common symptoms of BV you should schedule an Online Consultation, especially if you are sexually active. After filling out a short form about your symptoms, a doctor will follow up with treatment that may include BV-Specific Prescription Medication. It’s important to take the full cycle of meds, even if your symptoms go away, to ensure you do not suffer recurrent or chronic BV symptoms. Treatment also reduces the risk for STDs, such as HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. Men do not contract BV and do not need to be treated if a female sexual partner undergoes treatment, however, BV can be transferred between female sexual partners.

Learn more about the health risks of Bacterial Vaginosis at the Center For Disease Control.