Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. It increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and may play a role in premature labor.
NICHD is one of many federal agencies and NIH institutes working to understand BV and to educate women about what it is and how to avoid it. NICHD supports and conducts research on the risks of BV and ways to prevent and treat it.
BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. A change in the balance of bacteria that normally live in the vagina causes BV.
The most common symptom of BV is an increased vaginal discharge that usually has a “fishy” odor. A woman may feel a burning sensation or, in rare cases, itching, when she urinates.
Usually, “good” bacteria outnumber “bad” bacteria in your vagina. But if “bad” bacteria become too numerous, they upset the natural balance and “good” bacteria decrease. This imbalance causes BV.
Diagnosis of BV requires a vaginal exam by a qualified healthcare provider and the laboratory testing of fluid collected from the vagina.
Prescription antibiotics can cure BV by helping to readjust the balance of bacteria in the vagina. Currently, this is the only effective way to cure BV.
Find answers to other common questions about bacterial vaginosis, such as how BV affects pregnancy and ways to lower the risk of developing BV.