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Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis: The Most Common Gynecologic Infection

Health care professionals are sharing key findings around overall awareness, diagnosis and treatment of BV.

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This article has been archived. We will no longer be updating it. For our most up-to-date information, please visit our vaginal health information here.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most prevalent gynecologic infection in the United States and affects more than 21 million women each year, but it's rarely talked about.

The most common symptoms of BV include a discharge and an unpleasant vaginal odor. Women may easily mistake BV for a yeast infection, but BV requires a different treatment, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis.

To promote awareness of BV, a group of nine women's health leaders from across the United States participated in a meeting in Philadelphia to discuss bacterial vaginosis. Their meeting yielded key findings around overall awareness, diagnosis and treatment of BV.

Here are some highlights:


  • BV is a condition that can have serious health implications; it can cause preterm labor, pelvic inflammatory disease and increased transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • BV is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, even though it is often sexually facilitated. An overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, sometimes from douching or a lack of vaginal lactobacilli, causes BV.
  • When women attempt to self-diagnose and self-treat with over-the-counter products and homeopathic remedies, it can lead to poor health consequences and difficulty carrying out proper treatment.


  • A health care provider should diagnose BV during an office visit, not over the telephone.
  • Women need education on the signs, symptoms and risks of BV to aid with more rapid diagnosis.


  • Health care providers should prescribe medical treatment for women diagnosed with symptomatic BV.
  • Many women with BV experience recurrence of symptoms. This is a serious and ongoing issue and needs further study.
  • Women with BV need more treatment options.
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