Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

What is BV?

BV is a vaginal infection. “BV” stands for bacterial (back-TEER-ee-ol) vaginosis (VAJ-in-OH-sis). When natural bacteria in the vagina increase, BV may occur. It is the vaginal infection that occurs most often.

 

What causes BV?

The exact cause of BV is unknown. Use of douches and feminine sprays may increase the natural bacteria in the vagina. You cannot catch BV from someone else. Having sex does not give you BV. Women who are not having sex can get BV. However, more women who are sexually active get BV.

 

What are the signs of BV?

The two main symptoms of BV are:

  • Vaginal odor that is foul or “fishy.” This odor often gets stronger after having sex or during your monthly period.
  • Vaginal discharge that is thin and milky white or gray

Many women with BV do not notice any symptoms.

How do you find out if you have BV?

If you have signs of BV, you should contact your health care provider. You must have a test to learn if you have BV. A sample of the vaginal discharge will be tested.

How is BV treated?

If you have BV, your doctor may prescribe medicine for you. The medicine may be a medicine taken by mouth or the medicine may be a vaginal cream or gel. You must finish all of the medicine even if your symptoms have gone away.

Over-the-counter medicines for yeast or other vaginal products do not work for BV. Only a doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe drugs for BV.

How to prevent BV

  • Avoid douching. Douching upsets the normal balance in the vagina. Douching may lead to BV.
  • Avoid perfumed soaps and feminine hygiene sprays. They can irritate the vagina.
  • Wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement. Wiping from front to back helps prevent the spread of bacteria from the rectum to the vagina.

When to call your health care provider

If you continue to have symptoms of BV after you finish your medicine, or if you have any questions, call your provider.

Revised September 2011

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com