Bacterial Vaginosis - Topic Overview
is a mild infection of the
vagina caused by bacteria. Normally, there are a lot
of "good" bacteria and some "bad" bacteria in the vagina. The good types help
control the growth of the bad types. In women with bacterial vaginosis, the
balance is upset. There are not enough good bacteria and too many bad
Bacterial vaginosis is usually a mild problem that may
go away on its own in a few days. But it can lead to more serious problems. So
it's a good idea to see your doctor and get treatment.
Experts are not
sure what causes the bacteria in the vagina to get out of balance. But certain
things make it more likely to happen. Your risk of getting bacterial vaginosis
is higher if you:
more than one sex partner or have a new sex partner.
You may be able to avoid bacterial vaginosis if you limit
your number of sex partners and don't douche or smoke.
vaginosis is more common in women who are sexually active. But it can occur if you are not sexually active as well.
The most common symptom is
a smelly vaginal discharge. It may look grayish white or yellow. A sign of
bacterial vaginosis can be a "fishy" smell, which may be worse after sex. About
half of women who have bacterial vaginosis do not notice any symptoms.
Many things can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, including some sexually
transmitted infections (STIs). See your doctor so you can be tested and get the
diagnose bacterial vaginosis by asking about the symptoms, doing a
pelvic exam, and taking a sample of the vaginal
discharge. The sample can be tested to find out if you have bacterial
Bacterial vaginosis usually does not cause other health problems. But in some cases it
can lead to serious problems.
- If you have it when you are pregnant, it
increases the risk of miscarriage, early (preterm) delivery, and uterine
infection after pregnancy.
- If you have it when you have a pelvic
procedure such as a cesarean section, an abortion, or
a hysterectomy, you are more likely to get a pelvic
- If you have it and you are exposed to a sexually
transmitted infection (including
HIV), you are more likely to catch the infection.