Bacterial Vaginosis

What is it?
The normal, healthy vagina contains some “friendly” bacteria. In bacterial vaginosis, these “friendly” bacteria are replaced by different bacteria called ‘anaerobic bacteria’.


Are there any other names for it?
Bacterial vaginosis is also called anaerobic vaginosis, or just BV.

Is it common?
Yes, many women have bacterial vaginosis at some time in their life.

What causes it?
We do not know for sure what causes it, but it is not something you can catch from your partner. Male partners do not therefore need treated.

Where can I be treated?
If you think you have an infection or have any worries about your sexual health, you can make an appointment with your family doctor or at a Integrated Sexual Health Clinic (formerly Genito-urinary GUM).

The clinic is run by friendly, specially-trained staff who give free, confidential advice and treatment. To make an appointment phone 0300 303 0251 (Line open Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.)

How is it diagnosed?
It is best diagnosed by taking a small sample of the discharge from the vagina. The diagnosis can often be made right away by looking at the sample down a microscope. Women with bacterial vaginosis sometimes have other infections as well, so it is worth thinking about having a full sexual-health check-up. This is very simple and usually involves taking a few samples and maybe a blood test.

How is bacterial vaginosis treated?
The most common treatment is a special antibiotic called metronidazole or flagyl. Symptoms usually disappear within a day or two. Partners do not need to be seen or treated. However, if they have any symptoms it could be worth them having a sexual-health check-up.

Will it come back?
Most women just have bacterial vaginosis once. However, some women find that it comes back more often and may need more than one course of tablets

Sexual Health
Bacterial vaginosis is not something you can catch from your partner. However, there are infections which are passed from one person to another during sex and these are called sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

For many people sexual health is having a happy and healthy sex life. Being sexually healthy also means protecting yourself and your partner from sexually-transmitted infections.

How to stay sexy and healthy

Using condoms or having non penetrative sex is the best way to have safer sex. This means giving and getting pleasure in ways that don’t put you or your partner at risk of STIs.

  • Enjoy sex without penetration – why not try kissing, hugging, stroking, massaging, masturbating and body rubbing? All of these are safe and fun.
  • If you are having vaginal or anal sex, condoms can help make it safer and more fun. Condoms have really changed. You can get them in all different colours, shapes and flavours.
  • Sex toys are safe as long as you don’t share them. If you do share them, you can reduce the risk of infection by using a condom over the sex toy. But you must change the condom or wash the toy with hot soapy water each time you transfer it from one person to another.

NHS Health Scotland have produced a leaflet on Vaginal Health which gives more information on Bacterial Vaginosis and this is available in several different languages.  To access the leaflet go to:

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