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Going to a Cleveland Clinic location? Bacterial vaginosis BV is a vaginal infection caused by bacteria. It is the most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge that occurs in reproductive-age women women who have not gone through menopause yet. Bacterial vaginosis may cause a "fishy" odor and cause vaginal irritation in some women.

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Others may not have any symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis is associated with poor obstetrics and gynecologic outcomes such as preterm delivery, infection after surgeries such as a hysterectomy, and may make a woman more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV. Bacterial vaginosis BV is the most common vaginal problem for women ages 15 to In fact, an estimated one in three American women will get BV. The rate is higher in black women.

It usually occurs in people who are sexually active. You may have a higher risk of getting BV if you:.

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Your vagina is home to multiple types of bacteria called a microbiomejust like your digestive system. Bacterial vaginosis BV happens when some of the vaginal bacteria grow more quickly than others. Too much of one type of bacteria le to an imbalance.

Researchers think that sex may change the bacterial environment in your vagina. This makes bacterial overgrowth more likely. BV symptoms are similar to other infections. Both bacterial vaginosis BV and yeast infections are vaginal infections that increase discharge. During an exam, your healthcare provider takes a sample of fluid from your vagina. Healthcare providers view the fluid under a microscope, test it in the office or send it to the lab for analysis. In one-third of cases, bacterial vaginosis BV resolves on its own without any medications. However, if you have symptoms, you should seek medical care.

Having BV makes you prone to sexually transmitted infections and can affect pregnancy. Your doctor will prescribe antibioticstypically metronidazole or clindamycin. These medications come in a gel or cream you insert into your vagina. They also come in pills you can take orally. There are no over-the-counter products to treat bacterial vaginosis BV.

Avoid using douches or products meant for yeast infections, which could make BV worse. See your healthcare provider for treatment. These steps may reduce your risk:. Most of the time, one round of antibiotics — taken for up to seven days — eliminates the infection. You should get treated for the infection whether or not you have symptoms. BV can cause pregnancy complications, such as early delivery or having a baby that weighs less than average.

If you have a female partner, she may have BV too. Although bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection, it can make you vulnerable to more serious conditions. A simple course of antibiotics could set things straight. Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission.

We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Bacterial Vaginosis Bacterial vaginosis BV is a common vaginal infection that happens when some normal bacteria that lives in the vagina overgrows, causing a bacterial imbalance. Appointments How common is bacterial vaginosis BV? Who can get bacterial vaginosis BV? You may have a higher risk of getting BV if you: Are pregnant. Have an intrauterine device IUD. Have multiple sex partners.

Have a new sex partner. Have a female sex partner. Use douches. Symptoms and Causes What causes bacterial vaginosis BV? Is bacterial vaginosis contagious BV? What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis BV? If you do, you may have: Off-white, grey or greenish color vaginal discharge fluid.

Discharge that smells "fishy. Rarely, an itchy or sore vagina. Yeast infections do. Over-the-counter treatment: You can treat yeast infections with over-the-counter medications. Diagnosis and Tests How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed? Management and Treatment Can bacterial vaginosis BV clear up on its own? What is the treatment for bacterial vaginosis BV? Is there a home treatment for bacterial vaginosis BV? Prevention How can I lower my risk of bacterial vaginosis BV?

These steps may reduce your risk: Avoid douching. It changes the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. Instead, practice healthy vaginal and vulvar care. Avoid vaginal contact with anything that has touched your anus. Things like toilet paper and sex toys could transfer bacteria found in your poop to your vagina. Make sure sexual toys are properly cleaned after every use. Limit your of sex partners. Use latex condoms or dental dams. Wear cotton or cotton-lined underwear.

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Bacteria thrive in moist environments. Cotton helps wick away moisture. Can you get bacterial vaginosis BV multiple times? When should I tell my partner? When should I call my healthcare provider? Call your provider if you have: Discharge that changes color or consistency. Discharge that smells different than usual. Vaginal itching, burning, swelling or soreness. A note from Cleveland Clinic Although bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection, it can make you vulnerable to more serious conditions.

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