Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age and it occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain “bad” bacteria in the vagina.

Getting Tested

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Type of Test

A health care provider will examine the vagina for signs of BV and take a sample of vaginal fluid to be examined under a microscope or sent to a lab for testing. Schedule the test when you are not on your period. Do not have sex, douche or use a tampon within 24 hours of your exam.

Test Timing

It depends on the lab used by your health care provider, but usually a couple of days to a week.

  • BV occurs when the balance between “good” and “harmful” bacteria is thrown off. Often there are no symptoms at all, but sometimes BV is accompanied by unusual discharge, strong odor, painful urination, itching, or burning.

  • BV can be treated with antibiotic pills, vaginal creams or suppositories. Sometimes BV will clear up on its own, but getting treatment is important to avoid complications.

  • BV is considered a sexually associated infection, not specifically an STI. This is because it can be spread through sexual contact, but women can also get this infection unrelated to sexual activity. It is simply an imbalance in the bacteria in the vagina.

  • As with all STIs, the most effective protection is to abstain from sexual activity or be monogamous with one long-term partner who has tested negative for BV. Using latex condoms or dental dams can help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the infection. Also avoid douching, as this can remove good bacteria and make BV worse.