Bacterial Vaginosis

Many bacteria normally live in the vagina of healthy females. Bacterial vaginosis is caused when there are too many of one kind of bacteria, mainly Gardnerella. When there are changes to the normal acidic environment in the vagina there can be an overgrowth of Gardnerella and this causes bacterial vaginosis.

Bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but is often associated with sexual activity. It is included here because, like thrush, it affects many young people.

Signs and symptoms

  • White or grey discharge with an unpleasant 'fishy' smell (smell can get stronger after sexual intercourse or after a period)
  • Irritation of the vulva like redness or itching.


Bacterial vaginosis may not cause any symptoms and so is not always diagnosed or treated. If you do have any of the symptoms above, speak with your doctor or health care worker about available treatments. This is usually a course of antibiotics or a cream.

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