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BV

BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can cause an increase in unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge. It may settle down on its own or vary through the monthly cycle but it can be treated with antibiotics.

What is it?

Bacterial vaginosis (or BV for short) is not actually a sexually transmitted infection but it is a common cause of vaginal discharge.

How do I catch it?

BV is not a sexually transmitted infection so you cannot catch it.

If you have BV, there will be less of the friendly vaginal bacteria and an overgrowth of the unfriendly bacteria. The pH of your vagina will also become less acidic.

BV can be triggered by using scented bubble bath, shower gel or soaps, using vaginal deodorant or putting antiseptic liquids in the bath. Semen in the vagina after unprotected sex and hormone changes during the menstrual cycle might also play a part. Smokers are also more likely to get BV.

What symptoms could I have?

The main symptom of BV is an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge. This will often have an unpleasant smell.

How do you test for it?

BV is diagnosed at the sexual health clinic by looking at a sample of vaginal discharge under the microscope.

Use the service finder to find a testing service near you.

How do you treat it?

BV may settle down on its own or vary through the monthly cycle but it can be treated with antibiotics. This is most commonly given as a course of tablets, but it might sometimes be given as a gel or a cream to use inside the vagina.

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