Bacterial Vaginosis

Something not right down there?

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Something not right down there?

You are not alone – vaginal discomfort and discharge are common complaints of women through all stages of life.1a

Overview of condition

Back to top

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a type of vaginitis1h (vaginal inflammation)1 that is associated with a disturbance in the normal vaginal flora.3g It is characterized by an unpleasant vaginal “fishy” odour and off-white, greyish, thin, homogenous vaginal discharge. 2b,5b

Causes and risk factors

Back to top

The cause of BV is not clear, but what is known, is that it is associated with a disturbance in the normal vaginal flora.3g Normal vaginal bacteria include a high proportion of bacteria known as Lactobacilli which keep the pH of the vagina acidic.1n,4d It is this acidity that suppresses the overgrowth of infectious organisms.1n Loss of vaginal acidity can lead to a loss of the Lactobacillus dominance in the vagina, leading to further alkalization, and subsequent overgrowth of infectious organisms that are already present in the vaginal flora.1j,2c

 Risk factors for contracting BV:1i

  • New or multiple sex partners
  • Frequent douching
  • Intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs)
  • Pregnancy

Untreated BV can lead to serious risks:3d,4a

  • Increased risk of HIV
  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • In pregnant women, BV increases the risk of miscarriage, preterm labour and preterm delivery, as well as increasing the risk of complications after birth such as endometritis (inflammation of the lining of the uterus) and wound infections.

Signs and Symptoms

Back to top

How do you know if you have BV?

Compare the symptoms below to see if you may have BV.

Symptoms are typically characterised by: 2b,5b

  • Unpleasant “fishy” odour.
  • Off-white, greyish, thin, homogenous discharge.
  • Itching and inflammation are not usually present.

How the condition impacts quality of life

Back to top
  • BV is the most common cause of vaginal discharge or vaginitis in women of childbearing age.2a
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV) affects 1 in 3 women.1d,3c,4b
  • Many women with BV have no symptoms.4c
  • The majority of patients with vaginal symptoms use over-the-counter antifungal medication which does not treat BV.1c

  1. Hildebrand JP, Kansagor AT. Vaginitis. [Updated 2022 Feb 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Sobel JD. Vaginitis. The New England Journal of Medicine.1997;337(26):1896-1903.
  3. Bilardi JE, Walker S, Temple-Smith M, et al. The burden of bacterial vaginosis: women’s experience of the physical, emotional, sexual and social impact of living with recurrent bacterial vaginosis. PLOS ONE 2013;8(9):e74378. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074378.
  4. Koumans EH, Sternberg M, Bruce C, et al. The Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis in the United States, 2001 -2004; associations with symptoms, sexual behaviors, and reproductive health. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 2007;34(11):864 -869. DOI: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318074e565.
  5. Mendling W, Weissenbacher ER, Gerber S et al. Use of locally delivered dequalinium chloride in the treatment of vaginal infections: a review. Arch Gynecol Obstet 2016;293:469-484. DOI 10.1007/s00404-015-3914-8.
  6. Minkin MJ, Maamari R and Reiter S.  Improved compliance and patient satisfaction with estradiol vaginal tablets in postmenopausal women previously treated with another local estrogen therapy International Journal of Women’s Health 2013:5 133–139.
  7. Weissmann-Brenner A, Bayevsky T, Yoles I. Compliance to vaginal treatment—tablets versus cream: a retrospective 9 years study. Menopause 2017;24(1):73-76.

Adcock Ingram Limited. Reg. No. 1949/034385/06. Private Bag X69, Bryanston, 2021, South Africa. Customer Care: 0860 ADCOCK/232625. 2022122010249282 December 2022

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

For more health information

Click on the body area you want to know more about. Select a related health topic from the menu

Select a body area
Mental Health
Infant Health
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Although deemed as ‘normal’, teething may be accompanied by a fever, irritability, diarrhoea and poor sleep; amongst other things. Was this ....
There has been a steady increase in the number of flu cases reported recently. This is unusual because the flu season usually runs from March to ....
When is a runny tummy actually diarrhoea, and when to use an antidiarrhoeal? Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your ....
Sinuses are spaces in the bones of your cheeks, your forehead and your nose. Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your ....
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella can be highly infectious diseases1 and can spread through droplets of saliva, inhaled or picked up from surfaces and ....