Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection that develops due to an imbalance in the natural bacteria in the vagina. It occurs when “bad” bacteria, which do not need oxygen to survive, outnumber “good” bacteria, known as lactobacilli.
BV is the most commonTrusted Source condition affecting the vagina in people aged 15–44 years. BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and a person does not have to be sexually active to develop BV.
The symptoms of BV include:
- a thin vaginal discharge that is white or gray
- a bad-smelling discharge, which may become worse before a period or after having sex
- pain when having sex
- itchy or discolored genitals
- a burning sensation when urinating
In this article, we examine the home remedies and medical treatments for BV. We also explain when a person should see a doctor.
BV can sometimes clear up by itself, but treatment is often necessary. In either case, BV can reoccur.
Factors that can make a person more likely to develop BV include:
- having sex with more than one person
- using vaginal douches or other hygiene products on the vagina, such as scented soaps or washes
- using an intrauterine device (IUD)
- having sexual intercourse without using barrier protection, such as a condom
- smokingTrusted Source
People can make changes to their everyday habits to reduce the chance of BV developing or recurring.
These include wearing breathable cotton underwear, which may help prevent the growth of bacteria around the genitals by preventing moisture from building up in the area. This moisture enables bacteria to grow.
Practicing good hygiene can also help keep the natural bacteria in the vagina in balance. However, it is important not to use vaginal douches or strong scented soaps or washes on the vagina.
Using barrier protection, such as condoms, during sexual activity may prevent BV, especially if a person has more than one sexual partner. BV is not technically an STI, but it does have a link with sexual activity.
It can also increase the likelihood of getting an STI, such as chlamydia. Using barrier protection is important in preventing the spread of STIs.
Some people may find that BV recurs frequently even when they take steps to reduce their risk factors. In these cases, people may need to accept that the recurrences could be out of their control.
It is not usually possible to treat BV with over-the-counter (OTC) medication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommend antibiotics to treat BV.
The types of antibiotics include: