Women in their reproductive years are most likely to get bacterial vaginosis (BV), but it can affect women of any age. The cause of BV isn’t completely understood, but certain activities, such as unprotected sex can increase your risk of developing the disease. 1

Bacterial vaginosis results from overgrowth of one of several bacteria naturally found in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria. However, if there are too many bad bacteria, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina and can cause bacterial vaginosis. 1

Having multiple sex partners or a new sex partner may increase your risk of infection compared to women who have a single partner. Bacterial vaginosis also occurs more frequently in women who have sex with women. 1

Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis aren’t sexually transmitted infections, however having new a sexual partner may increase your risk of bacterial vaginosis. To prevent possible reinfection, wait until you and your partner have completed treatment and you no longer have symptoms before having intercourse. 2

Having bacterial vaginosis makes women more susceptible to other sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, herpes simplex virus, chlamydia or gonorrhoea. 1

Having sex when you have a vaginal infection or vaginal inflammation may be uncomfortable and might make your symptoms worse. If the source of your infection is from a sexually transmitted infection, you may also transmit the infection to your partner. If you have chronic yeast infections (candidiasis), confirmed by a doctor, you may have sex, without concern for worsening symptoms, as long as you’re comfortable. 2

Your doctor will be able to confirm a bacterial infection. He or she will ask about your symptoms and do a vaginal exam. They may use a cotton swab to take a sample of your discharge to check under a microscope for BV, this can also help your doctor to rule out other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea or trichomoniasis, which share some symptoms. 3

You can decrease your risk of getting a bacterial infection if your male partner uses a latex condom, if you limit your number of sex partners, or abstain from sexual intercourse. 1

If you are not sure if you have BV, take the self-assessment at

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  1. Mayo Clinic. Bacterial vaginosis. [online] July 2017 [cited April 2019]; Available from URL:
  2. Mayo Clinic. Sex during vaginal infection: Is it harmful? [online] February 2017 [cited April 2019]; Available from URL:
  3. What Is Bacterial Vaginosis? [online] February 2018 [cited April 2019]; Available from URL: