Understanding and identifying vaginal infections

As seen on Canadian Health & Family with Dr. Marla Shapiro. Learn more

Get the facts!

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common type of vaginal infection. A bacterial infection occurs when the bacteria that is normally found in a woman’s vagina, multiplies. Although BV is more frequent in sexually active women, it is not usually considered a sexually transmitted infection.

Contributing factors

The following factors may contribute to bacterial infections:

  • vaginal douching
  • feminine hygiene products
  • having a new or multiple sex partners


Bacterial vaginosis may, or may not, be accompanied with symptoms. When present, symptoms include:

  • a more watery vaginal discharge
  • a white/grey vaginal discharge
  • a “fishy” odour


When symptoms are present, your healthcare professional may prescribe antibiotics (e.g. metronidazole, clindamicyn). The medication will be prescribed as a cream inserted into the vagina or as pills taken by mouth.


Nearly one-third of the female population has bacterial vaginosis. Although the best way to prevent BV is still unknown, limiting your number of sexual partners and not douching will help reduce the risk of upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.