Bacterial Vaginosis – A Common Cause of Vaginal Smell

Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of healthy bacteria naturally found in the vagina, which upsets the natural balance. Women in their reproductive years are most likely to get bacterial vaginosis, but it can affect women of any age. The cause isn’t completely understood, but certain activities, such as unprotected sex or frequent douching, increase your risk.

Bacterial vaginosis is not dangerous, but it can cause disturbing symptoms.

Bacterial vaginosis is not the same thing as an STD or yeast infection. But having sex with a new partner, or multiple partners may increase your risk for Bacterial vaginosis. And sex sometimes leads to Bacterial vaginosis if your partner’s natural genital chemistry changes the balance in your vagina and causes bacteria to grow.

The reason why isn’t clear, but women who have female partners are most at risk. You can also get Bacterial vaginosis from oral and anal sex. 


Around half of all women with Bacterial vaginosis show no symptoms. But if you do, you could notice :

  • Thin white, gray, or green discharge
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Fishy smell that gets stronger after sex
  • itching around the outside of the vagina

Also Read: The Causes & Treatment of Vaginal Itching


Bacterial vaginosis alone is not considered harmful, but complications can arise. Complications that have been linked to Bacterial vaginosis include a higher risk of:

Also Read: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination (Gardasil 9) in Malaysia

Possible complications of Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy include:

  • early, or preterm, delivery
  • loss of pregnancy
  • the amniotic sac breaking open too early
  • postpartum endometritis, an irritation or inflammation of the lining of the uterus after delivery
  • tubal factor infertility, caused by damage to the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus
  • chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the fetus, known as the chorion and the amnion.

Chorioamnionitis significantly increases the chance of an early delivery. If the newborn survives, they have a higher risk of cerebral palsy.

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) may be less likely to succeed if a woman has Bacterial vaginosis.

Bacterial vaginosis also increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection and inflammation of the upper female genital tract that can have severe consequences, including infertility.


The doctor may be able to diagnose Bacterial vaginosis from a description of symptoms and a physical examination. They will look out for an unpleasant smell and a thin, white or gray discharge.

If the patient is sexually active and there is a chance that an STI is present, the doctor may order some diagnostic tests.

A swab or small plastic loop can be used to collect sample cells from the vaginal wall. You may require to give a urine / blood sample as well to rule out possible STIs. 

Learn More about our STD Screening, STD Testing & STD Treatment at our clinic


Bacterial vaginosis often clears up without treatment, but women with signs and symptoms should seek treatment to avoid complications.

Also Read: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (Causes Symptoms & Treatment)

Treatment may not be needed if there are no symptoms. Sometimes Bacterial vaginosis can appear and disappear for no apparent reason.

If there is abnormal vaginal discharge, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor can diagnose Bacterial vaginosis and rule out other infections, such as gonorrhoea or trich.

Also Read: Why Do I Have Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Antibiotics are effective in up to 90 per cent of cases, but Bacterial vaginosis often comes back again within a few weeks.

  1. Metronidazole is the most common antibiotic for BV.
  2. Clindamycin is an alternative antibiotic. It may be used if metronidazole is not effective, or if the infection recurs.
  3. Tinidazole is another antibiotic that is sometimes used to treat BV if metronidazole does not work or if BV recurs. It is taken by mouth as a single dose. 

Alcohol must be avoided when taking all these medications.

Around 30 per cent of women whose symptoms disappear with treatment will have a recurrence within 3 months, and 50 per cent will have a recurrence within 6 months.

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