Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of normal germs (bacteria) in the vagina, causing a characteristic smelly discharge.

Having a discharge from your vagina can be embarrassing. However, it's a very common symptom, and most of the time it doesn't mean you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In women of menstruating age, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of a vaginal discharge.

What is it?

Normally, we have a healthy and harmonious mix of germs (bacteria) in our bodies. In bacterial vaginosis (BV), the balance gets upset, and one type of bacteria in the vagina (called anaerobic bacteria) multiplies, whilst another type (called lactobacilli) dies off. This messes with the normal acid balance in the vagina. So generally speaking, you don't "catch" BV.

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Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
4203 (v41)
Last Checked:
30 September 2014
Next Review:
29 September 2017

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.