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Bacterial vaginosis - What is bacterial vaginosis?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Bacterial vaginosis is an infection in your vagina. You might get a vaginal discharge, but many women don't have any symptoms.

We've brought together the best research about bacterial vaginosis and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Usually, there are a lot of 'friendly' bacteria called lactobacillus in your vagina. They help keep your vagina healthy. If you have bacterial vaginosis, these 'friendly' bacteria have been replaced with other bacteria called anaerobes.


Doctors aren't sure what causes bacterial vaginosis. But some things increase your chances of getting it.

You might be more likely to get bacterial vaginosis if you:[1][2][3]

Women with bacterial vaginosis have many more types of bacteria in their vaginas than women without bacterial vaginosis.[4] And these bacteria are different from the usual types. The vaginas of women with bacterial vaginosis are also less acidic than normal.[1] But we don't know why.

A lot of women seem to get bacterial vaginosis when they are having their period.[5]

Can I get bacterial vaginosis from my sexual partner?

Bacterial vaginosis seems to be linked in some way to having sex. But researchers don't think you can 'catch' it from a male sex partner. The infection does not seem to pass from a man to a woman during sex.[6]

If you are a female sex partner of a woman who has bacterial vaginosis, some research shows you have a higher chance of being infected, too. But researchers aren't sure why.[3]


intrauterine device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of contraceptive. It is a small device made of copper or plastic, with threads at the end. These threads can be left in your vagina while the rest of the device sits in your womb (cervix). IUDs stop eggs sticking to your womb and growing.

sexually transmitted infection

An infection that is spread by people having sex is called a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Examples are HIV, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

For more terms related to Bacterial vaginosis


For references related to Bacterial vaginosis click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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