Is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) STD? Here’s What You Should Know

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most prevalent gynecological complaint among women and assigned females at birth (AFAB) between the ages of 15 and 44. Statistics show that about 35% of people with a vagina are likely to get BV.

BV mainly causes a vaginal discharge to turn grayish or whitish with a fish-like odor and usually happens in sexually active people. With this in mind, many think it’s a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease (STD).

Is BV really an STD? Let’s figure it out here. 

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a mild vaginal infection caused by an imbalance of “good” bacteria (i.e., lactobacilli) and “bad” bacteria (i.e., anaerobes). Both good and bad normally exist in the vagina. 

However, there are instances when the bad bacteria grow too much. Specifically, gardnerella vaginalis, the bad bacteria that mainly causes BV, will overgrow and overpower the “good” bacteria, throwing off their balance in your vagina and resulting in BV. 

Common Signs of BV

Based on the latest scientific research, what causes BV isn’t fully known yet. However, according to medical professionals, you may BV if you’ll likely notice the following: 

  • A thin off-white, gray, or green vaginal discharge;
  • A foul fish-like smell, particularly after sex;
  • Painful, itchy, or burning  sensation when peeing or around the outside or in the vagina. 

Common Causes of BV

Researchers claimed anything that can change the natural chemistry of your vagina might likely leave an adverse impact on your vaginal flora (or the bacteria living inside the vagina). This includes certain activities involving your female private part. 

For example, douching (i.e., washing the vagina with water or a mixture, usually water and vinegar) or engaging in unprotected sex can increase the likelihood of having BV. Additionally, the following factors can increase a person’s risk of getting BV:

Understanding and managing your sexual health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being. Misconceptions and lack of knowledge can often lead to unnecessary anxiety. For instance, many people wonder if Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an STD. To clear up such doubts and to ensure your health, consider opting for reliable STD testing in Portland. It’s always better to be safe and informed when it comes to your health.

  • Smoking;
  • Having sexual intercourse; 
  • Having a new sex partner; 
  • Having an AFAB sex partner;
  • Having multiple sex partners;
  • Having an intrauterine device (IUD);
  • Not using contraceptives or dental dams; 
  • Pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause; 
  • Being naturally deficient in good bacteria in your vagina; and 
  • Races. 

When it comes to race, black American women are likely to get BV. Research has shown that they have diverse vaginal flora with lower Lactobacillus crispatus levels, which keeps the pH of the vagina low and prevents unhealthy bacteria from growing. In other words, black women tend to have fewer vaginal protective barriers,  leaving them at a higher infection risk. 

BV and STI or STD 

BV isn’t contagious (i.e., it can be passed from one person to another) and isn’t sexually transmitted. In other words, it’s not an STI or STD. However, if you have BV, you’ll likely get an STI and ST because BV makes your vagina less acidic, reducing your natural defenses against any infection and disease .

Diagnosis and Tests of BV 

While there are common signs of being aware of, only medical professionals can accurately diagnose BV. If you think you have one or more signs of BV mentioned above, immediately contact your healthcare provider and set an appointment. 

Doctors will typically ask for your medical history during your appointment. This includes vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’ve experienced these, be transparent with them and prepare your medical documents about them beforehand. 

Doctors may also perform a pelvic exam. This test requires them to insert their gloved fingers inside your vagina so they can look for signs of infection. If you’re uncomfortable about this, doctors may alternatively take a sample of vaginal discharge. To do so, they’ll insert a speculum (a duck-bill-shaped medical device) into your vagina and a swab to get a fluid sample from your vagina. 

The vaginal fluid is typically sent to a lab to determine the types of bacteria present in your vagina, including the bacteria that cause BV. It undergoes several types of tests for BV, including: 

  • Whiff test, where doctors smell your vaginal discharge for any foul or fish-like smell.
  • Wet mount, where your vaginal discharge is examined on a glass slide under a microscope; and
  • Vaginal pH, where the acidity of your discharge is measured. 


Doctors will typically prescribe antibiotics to treat BV. They usually come in topical gels or creams, which you apply inside your vagina or pills that can be taken orally. Without insurance and discounts, these medicines can be quite costly, ranging from $155 to $500. Fortunately, there are ways to lower the costs, including coupons like a Doxycycline Hyclate Coupon

It’s typical for BV to recur within a few months. If it returns, you’ll often be prescribed antibiotics to treat it. If it still occurs frequently (more than four times a year), you may be given an antibiotic gel to apply to your vagina. 

Although the duration of treatment to prevent BV from recurring must be recommended by doctors, there are non-medical steps you can do to help relieve its symptoms and prevent it from recurring. 

Specifically, avoid doing the following:

  • Using scented soaps, bubble bath, shampoo, or shower gel in the bath; 
  • Using vaginal  douches, washes, or deodorant; 
  • Putting antiseptic liquids in the bath; 
  • Using strong detergents to wash your underwear;
  • Having multiple different sexual partners;
  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse; and 
  • Smoking. 

Final Thoughts

Bacterial vaginosis is a treatable vaginal condition. It can’t be sexually transmitted, so it’s not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease (STD). However, if left untreated, it increases the chance of getting STIs and STDs. Even worse, it doesn’t typically show symptoms, so you might be unaware that you have it and might not get it treated. To avoid this from happening, seeing your OB-GYN doctors and taking STI/D tests is a must. 

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