What is BV?
BV is the short form of bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection mostly caused by gardnerella vaginalis, the most common type of bacteria in your vagina. BV happens when the different kinds of healthy bacteria in your vagina get out of balance and grow too much.
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.
About 50–75% of females with BV have no symptoms. If these occur, they typically involve changes to vaginal discharge, such as an increased amount. There may also be a burning sensation or itchiness in the vaginal area.
In someone with BV, vaginal discharge may have:
- a gray or white color
- a strong, unpleasant smell, often described as fishy
- a watery, thin consistency.
A person may also have a burning sensation during urination and itching around the outside of the vagina, though this is less common.
Why Does My Boyfriend Keep Giving Me Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
You may keep getting BV from the same partner if:
- your partner keeps having sex with new partners
- your partner is having multiple sexual partners
- Sexual activity with your partners involves douching
- You do not use a condom during sex with your partner
- You are pregnant
- You started using new antibiotics.
These activities can result in an imbalance that can cause the infection. Bacterial vaginosis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection but it can increase your risk of getting an STI. Any agent (living or non-living) that changes the chemistry of your vagina’s pH balance can mess with bacteria levels and lead to BV.
How do I limit my risk of getting BV?
There are many ways you can reduce your risk of getting BV:
- Know your sexual partners—The more partners you or your partners have, the higher your risk of getting a BV.
- Use a latex or polyurethane condom—Using a latex or polyurethane condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex reduces the risk of BV.
- Know that certain sex practices increase the risk of an imbalance in the populations of beneficial and harmful bacteria that naturally live in the vagina. Body fluids also can carry STIs. Having any unprotected sexual contact with an infected person poses a high risk of getting an STI.
How To Discuss Your Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis With Your Partner
If you have an active or recurrent BV you should be open with your partner and let them know how you feel. Start by letting them know how you have been battling with BV. Let the conversation proceed naturally.
Listen rather than do all the talking. Prepare for your partner to be surprised. Each person reacts differently to the news. Some might get panicky or defensive. Some might be full of questions. Others might just need time to think and make the right adjustments.
The old saying knowledge is power is certainly true when it comes to your sexual health. Learning as much as you can about recurrent BV and STIs will give you and your partner the information you need to navigate your relationship safely.
STIs fall into three distinct categories:
- Bacterial STIs – Sexually transmitted bacterial infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. These are typically treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, one dose of antibiotics is sufficient, although some cases may require more.
- Viral STIs – Viral STIs include hepatitis B, HPV, herpes, and HIV. These infections aren’t curable, but they are manageable with treatment. If you have a viral STI, it’s important to seek treatment right away before your STI turns into a more serious STD.
- Parasites – Parasites can also cause STIs. Trichomoniasis is an example of a parasitic STI. Parasitic infections are often treated using antibiotics, insecticides, and other means.
Across all three of these categories, the most common STIs/STDs include:
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
- Hepatitis B
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Your specific treatment regimen will depend on the type of infection (or infections) you have. Some bacterial infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, will sometimes occur together.
When to see a doctor
According to Mayo Clinic, you should make an appointment to see your doctor if:
- You have vaginal discharge that’s new and associated with an odor or fever. Your doctor can help determine the cause and identify signs and symptoms.
- You’ve had vaginal infections before, but the color and consistency of your discharge seem different this time.
- You have multiple sex partners or a recent new partner. Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis.
- You try self-treatment for a yeast infection with an over-the-counter treatment and your symptoms persist.