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Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common infection of the vagina. It's harmless and easily treated. It's not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but you're more likely to develop the condition if you're sexually active.


Around half of women with BV have no symptoms. It often causes unusual vaginal discharge, but doesn’t usually cause any vaginal soreness or itching. If you have the condition, your discharge may:

  • develop a strong fishy smell, particularly after sexual intercourse
  • become white or grey
  • become thin and watery

Self care

A self test kit for vaginal infections is available to buy from your pharmacist.

A pharmacist can also recommend the most effective treatment for your symptoms and advise over the counter products you can buy for BV without a prescription.

To help relieve symptoms and prevent bacterial vaginosis from returning:


  • use water and an emollient, such as E45 cream, or plain soap to wash your genital area
  • have showers instead of baths


  • use perfumed soaps, bubble bath or shower gel
  • use vaginal deodorants, washes or douches
  • put antiseptic liquids in the bath
  • use strong detergents to wash your underwear
  • smoke


If you have tried a home treatment and still have symptoms or are worried, you should:

*Our walk-in and wait clinics offer limited slots and operate on a first come first served basis. When clinics are at full capacity, patients asking to be seen will be triaged and those who fit our urgent criteria will be a priority. At busy times we may need to signpost non-urgent cases to other clinics or recommend patients make an appointment for an alternative day or suggest a return visit.



BV can usually be successfully treated using a short course of antibiotic tablets or an antibiotic gel you apply inside your vagina.

More information

Visit NHS Choices - bacterial vaginosis

For further advice, please take a look at the leaflets produced by The Family Planning Association.

Last updated: 01/11/2023