What is it?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection. It is a condition that happens when there is too much of certain bacteria in the vagina, which may cause symptoms on and off for months or years. It is normal and healthy to have bacteria in the vagina; it is only when there is an overgrowth that it is considered to be BV.

How is it spread?

It is still not understood how BV develops.  It seems to be linked with sexual activity; having new or multiple partners may sometimes create the conditions where BV can develop.

What are the symptoms?

Approximately 50% of people who get BV do not have any symptoms. For those that do, they may include a watery, grey or yellow vaginal discharge as well as changes in odour which may include a fishy smell.  BV can also cause itching, irritation and soreness on the vagina and vulva (the outside genitals).

 What are the complications?

There are a few potential complications with BV.  If you have BV and are pregnant, there is a slight chance you may go into early labour.  Also, if you have untreated BV and are having an abortion or any other pelvic surgery, there is a possible risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).  It is advised that you treat BV before having one of these procedures or if you are pregnant. Like any vaginal infection, having BV can also make it more likely to get infected with HIV if you have condomless sex with someone who is HIV positive.

How is it diagnosed?

BV can be diagnosed based on symptoms. It can also be diagnosed by sending a swab of your discharge to a lab where they can look at the bacteria under a microscope.


How is it treated?

Treatment is a week of antibiotics.  Not everyone needs treatment.  Treatment is advised if:

you are pregnant; or you have symptoms that bother you; or you have an I.U.C. (intrauterine contraception such as copper I.U.D, Mirena, Jaydess); or you are about to have a gynecological procedure such as an abortion.

Hassle Free Clinic we will provide you the treatment or the prescription if you have a drug plan. This medication can clear symptoms, but it is still possible that the symptoms may return. It is also possible for BV to return after it has been treated.

The common treatment for BV is metronidazole (brand name is Flagyl). It is taken orally (by mouth) for seven days. You cannot drink any alcohol while you are taking these pills as well as 24 hours before starting the medication and 48 hours after finishing the medication.

What about sexual partners?

BV is not considered an STI.  It is not something that can typically be passed back and forth between partners. People who don’t have vaginas cannot get BV and there’s no need to have those partners treated.  If you have partners with vaginas it is possible that some bacteria can be spread to that partner.  You may want to consider avoiding direct exchange of vaginal fluids until your BV has been treated.


 The causes of BV are not fully understood, therefore things that may help prevent BV is also unclear. That said, it is believed that there are certain activities, such as douching and sexual activity may that may play a role.