What is it?
It is a very common vaginal infection sometimes also called BV.
Some women may not have any symptoms. If symptoms develop this can be a change in your normal vaginal discharge. This may increase, become thin and watery, change to a white / grey colour or have a strong fishy smell especially after sex.
What is it caused by?
BV occurs when bacteria that normally live in the vagina in low numbers multiply and cause symptoms. This can happen if you:
- use perfumed bubble bath or soap
- douche or use vaginal deodorants.
- use strong detergents or fabric softeners when washing your underwear or towels
Having sex can cause BV to develop because the semen in the vagina may change the acid level and then the bacteria can multiply and symptoms develop. Men do not get BV and it is not a sexually transmitted infection.
How is it diagnosed?
If you are worried that you may have BV visit your GP or a sexual health service. The nurse or doctor may use a swab to collect a sample of the discharge from your vagina.
How is it treated?
Treatment is usually simple and usually involves taking antibiotic tablets often as a single dose.
What can happen if it is not treated?
Most women who have symptoms wish treatment but BV can go away by itself. If you are found to have BV and have no symptoms then treatment is usually not needed. In pregnancy BV may cause problems such as preterm labour and recent guidance recommends that if BV is diagnosed in pregnancy it should be treated whether there are symptoms or not.
How can I best prevent infection?
Avoiding the following can reduce the chances of BV developing:
- the use perfumed bubble bath, soap or vaginal deodorants.
- the use strong detergents or fabric softeners when washing your underwear or towels
Douching (cleaning the vagina with water or medicated fluid) is NOT recommended. Not only can it cause conditions such as BV or thrush it can be associated with an increased risk of serious infection in the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes.