What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition where the bacteria balance inside the vagina is altered. It is common, but still poorly understood. Rather than causing any itching or soreness, it tends to create unusual vaginal discharge, which may be grey or white. It may become watery and thin, and it may also develop a strong fishy odour, especially after sex.

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For most women, BV isn’t serious. If you develop BV during pregnancy, seek immediate medical advice. It’s estimated that about 50% of women with BV have no symptoms at all.

Causes of bacterial vaginosis

The vagina is a haven for many different types of bacteria. In BV, certain types of bacteria become more prevalent, affecting the chemical balance in the vagina. It’s not clear what leads to these imbalances in bacteria. It is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STI), but women are more likely to develop BV if they are sexually active. London STI testing kits can help you to rule out certain conditions, if you are concerned. Other things that can increase the likelihood of you developing BV include using vaginal deodorant, having an IUD (intrauterine device) fitted, and using scented bubble baths and soaps.

Treatment of bacterial vaginosis

A short course of antibiotics will usually clear up BV, but it does tend to return, and more than half of those successfully treated for BV find that symptoms return within three months. Frequent episodes may result in a referral to a GUM specialist. If you are concerned about your discharge, visit your GP or order a self-test kit from https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/.


BV during pregnancy may increase the risk of you developing pregnancy-related complications, such as miscarriage or premature birth. This is a small risk and more likely to cause complications for women who have already had previous complications in earlier pregnancies. For most pregnancies, BV causes no problems at all. Contact your GP immediately for a course of antibiotics, if you are pregnant and notice symptoms of BV.


It’s not possible to prevent BV completely, as it’s still not fully understood. Lower your risk of developing BV by avoiding using strongly scented soaps, washing underwear with strong detergents, vaginal douching and using vaginal deodorant. These strong chemicals can upset the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina, making you more susceptible to developing BV.