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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an imbalance of bacteria normally found in the vagina. When some bacteria increase in number, a person may notice changes such as more fluid from the vagina or a change in odor.

BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is more common in women who are having sex, but women who are not sexually active can also have BV. In women who have sex with women, if one partner has BV then there is a high chance her partner will also have BV. When a woman has BV, it may be easier for her to get another STI or HIV. 

Causes

It is not clear what causes the bacteria in the vagina to get out of balance, but there are some things make it more likely to happen. The chances of having BV are higher if you: 

  • Have more than one sex partner or a new sex partner (sex with different partners can change the normal balance in the vagina)
  • Are a woman having sex with women
  • Smoke
  • Douche
  • Have an IUD

Symptoms

Many people who have BV do not notice any symptoms and do not need treatment. Common symptoms include more discharge and a change in vaginal fluid odor.

Complications

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) usually does not cause other health problems. Sometimes BV may spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause more serious problems.

If you have BV when you are pregnant, you may have a higher chance of miscarriage, early delivery or a pelvic infection after pregnancy. There is a higher chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) following an IUD insertion or an abortion, if the woman has PID.

Tests and Diagnosis

Testing and diagnosis involves a genital exam and a swab from the vagina. Get tested for BV if you:

  • have symptoms
  • are going to have an IUD, hysterectomy or surgical abortion
  • are pregnant

Treatment

BV is not usually treated if a person does not notice any symptoms. If there are symptoms, BV is treated with antibiotic medications and vaginal creams.

Male partners are not treated for BV. Female partners who are noticing symptoms may want to get tested and treated as needed.

Resources

BC Centre for Disease Control - Bacterial Vaginosis
HealthLink BC - Bacterial Vaginosis
 

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