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What causes bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

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A change in the balance of bacteria that normally live in the vagina causes BV.1,2,3

Usually, "good" bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber "bad" bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina and lactobacilli decrease.

Factors that can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina include:

  • Reacting to antibiotics
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Having unprotected sex with one or more partners
  • Douching

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (n.d.). FAQ: Vaginitis. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq028.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120510T1238147389 External Web Site Policy (PDF - 285 KB) [top]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Bacterial vaginosis: CDC fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm [top]
  3. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2008). Bacterial vaginosis fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 05/21/2013
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology