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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): What Every Woman Should Know About Causes and Risk Factors

a picture of the uterus and germs

What is BV?

BV (Bacterial Vaginosis) also called Vaginitis is the most common vaginal condition affecting women ages 15-44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can occur when the vagina fluids are not in balance (based on the pH scale). The imbalance can cause the overgrowth of bacteria and lead to infection and disease.


Get the facts about BV


  • BV is not a STD (sexually transmitted disease)

  • Requires a medical diagnosis

  • Exact cause is unknown

  • BV is not contagious

  • Pregnant women with BV can deliver premature babies or low-birth weight babies

  • BV can increase your chance of getting an STD

  • BV occurs more in sexually active women and women with multiple sex partners

  • Do not know how sex causes BV

  • Do not completely understand how it is spread and how to prevent it

What is a pH Scale?

 a picture of a pH scale

The pH scale is used to determine how strong a substance is on a scale from 0-14. The substance is classified as acidic, alkaline (basic or base), or neutral.

What Is a Normal Vaginal pH Level?

The vagina has normal bacteria and fluids to keep it healthy and in balance. The fluids are acidic and help to kill harmful bacteria, parasites and fungi.

The normal vaginal pH level ranges from 3.8 to 4.5 and varies depending on a woman's age. During woman's reproductive years, the normal range is from 4.0-4.5 and postmenopausal slighter over 4.5.

What Are the Symptoms of BV?

  • May or may not have symptoms

  • Thin, gray, white or green vaginal discharge (thick discharge in yeast infections)

  • Foul-smelling "fishy" vaginal odor especially after sex

  • Vaginal itching inside or outside of vagina

  • Pain, itching or burning in the vagina

  • Burning when urinating

What Are Some Possible Causes of BV?

  • Douching

  • Not using condoms during sex

  • New or multiple partners can upset the normal balance of vaginal "good" bacteria.

What Are Some Complications of BV?

BV can lead to these complications (if left untreated):

  • Pregnancy risk of preterm birth and low birth rate

  • Higher susceptibility to STDs

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in the uterus and fallopian tubes

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What Are the Treatments For BV?

BV is treated by antibiotics in pill or cream form and must be prescribed by a healthcare provider. There are no current home treatments that have been proven effective or safe.

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