Bacterial vaginosis

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Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) can affect women of any age, but is most common in women during their reproductive years. A bacterial infection occurs when “harmful” bacteria outnumber the “good” bacteria that are normally found in a woman’s vagina. BV is the most common cause of bacterial discharge and odour.

Contributing factors

The following factors may contribute to bacterial infections:

  • Vaginal douching
  • Natural lack of lactobacilli (good) bacteria
  • Having new or multiple sex partners


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

  • More watery vaginal discharge
  • Gray, white, or green vaginal discharge
  • A “fishy” odour
  • Burning during urination
  • Vaginal itching


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

There are also over-the-counter medications for BV, available in your pharmacy.


Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15–44. Although the best way to prevent BV is still unknown, limiting your number of sexual partners and not douching may help reduce the risk of upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.