What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a mild infection in the vagina. It develops when there's an imbalance between the "good" bacteria in the vagina that are helpful and the "bad" bacteria that can cause problems.
Bacterial vaginosis may cause pain, itching, and a bad-smelling discharge. But most girls with BV don't notice any symptoms — and that's not necessarily a good thing. Symptoms alert us to signs of trouble. Girls who don't know they have BV might not get treated for it. BV may be mild, but if it isn't treated it can lead to other problems.
BV is the most common vaginal infection affecting young women. Although it's not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD), the chances of developing bacterial vaginosis seem to increase with the number of sexual partners a woman has.
You don't need to be having sex to get BV, though. Girls who've never had sex also can get it.
What Causes It?
Normally, a lot of good, healthy bacteria live in the vagina along with a small amount of potentially harmful bacteria. But sometimes this balance can be upset by things like douching. That can lead a girl to develop bacterial vaginosis.
Although medical experts don't know for sure what causes BV, they do know that certain things can make the infection more likely, such as:
- new sex partners or many different sex partners (male or female)
- cigarette smoking
You can't get BV from things like toilet seats, sheets and towels, or swimming pools.
How Do You Know If You Have It?
Many girls don't see any signs of BV. But those who do might notice:
- an abnormal white or gray vaginal discharge that's thin, with a bad, fishy smell that's more noticeable during a girl's period or after sex
- pain while peeing
- itching in and around the vagina