Is Bacterial Vaginosis Contagious?

I want to know, is bacterial vaginosis contagious?

So, is bacterial vaginosis contagious? First, let's better understand bacterial vaginosis.

For women of childbearing age, typically 15-54, bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of vaginal infection. Women diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis, or BV, often have many questions about this type of infection such as how they got the infection, whether BV is contagious, and what, if any, complications may arise.

Is BV contagious?

Yes, it's contagious. Bacterial vaginosis can be spread through sexual intercourse. For example, the bacteria can be spread when a man has unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected woman and then has intercourse with a different woman. The bacteria are transferred via the unprotected penis.

It is also important to note that BV can be spread from woman to woman, as well as through a variety of sexual acts. Even though BV can be spread through intercourse, it is not classified as an STD by the CDC.

This is largely due to the fact that BV is caused by a bacterial imbalance that can occur simply because new bacteria are introduced into the vagina through a new sexual partner or multiple partners. Therefore, the exact role of intercourse in the spread of BV is not always clear.

How is BV contracted?

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the ratio between good bacteria and harmful bacteria within the vagina becomes unbalanced. The main bacteria responsible for keeping the vagina healthy are called lactobacilli. These bacteria are slightly acidic, and help to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

While the exact cause of bacterial imbalance is not always known, doctors do know that certain activities place women at a higher risk of contracting BV.

Activities to avoid

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • New sexual partner
  • Oral sex
  • Anal sex
  • Douching
  • Smoking
  • Using an IUD (intrauterine device).

Because BV can occur through activities other than intercourse, women who are not sexually active may also contract BV due to a bacterial imbalance.

What are the complications of BV?

Many women often confuse BV for other common types of vaginal infections such as yeast infections. Some women will misdiagnose BV and try to treat it with an over-the-counter yeast infection remedy. These remedies do not work for BV, and any infection should always be diagnosed by a physician so that the proper course of action can be taken.

Most of the time, BV will typically resolve on its own in a few days. However, sometimes antibiotics are required to treat this type of infection. Any vaginal infection should be diagnosed by a gynecologist, who can recommend the best course of treatment.

This is especially true for BV, which can cause complications if left untreated. BV poses a significant risk to pregnant women. The risks to unborn babies include premature birth and low birth weight. Babies born prematurely or at a low birth weight are susceptible to many other health problems. There is also the risk of miscarriage.

Untreated BV also places the woman at greater risk of contracting STDs like HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. A woman with BV and HIV also runs a higher risk of passing HIV to her sexual partner. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. Women with pelvic inflammatory disease often have trouble getting pregnant. Some women with PID cannot have children at all.

Because untreated BV can cause such devastating problems, it is important to know the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis so that it can be treated right away.

Symptoms of BV

Not all women who have BV show symptoms. In fact, nearly 50% never have a single symptom, and the infection is only discovered during a routine doctor's visit. However, there are a few common symptoms.

Symptoms include

  1. A foul, fishy smell that seems to be more noticeable after intercourse
  2. Gray, green, or white vaginal discharge
  3. Burning sensation after urination

These symptoms can also be caused by STDs, so it is important for any woman who experiences them to see her gynecologist as soon as possible.

Treatments for BV

BV can be treated with antibiotics, and it is a good idea to abstain from sexual intercourse during this time.

It is important to understand that many women will experience a recurrence of BV within a few months. Therefore, several doctor's visits may be required before the infection completely goes away.


So, is bacterial vaginosis contagious? Yes, it's contagious.

Last Reviewed:
August 29, 2017
Last Updated:
October 26, 2017
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