A couple weeks ago I started noticing a really weird smell coming from my vagina, and it was kinda itchy. I am sexually active with my boyfriend, and we haven’t been using condoms ever since we both got tested at the clinic. After the smell showed up, I went back to the clinic and they told me that I had Bacterial Vaginosis. They gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way without much of an explanation. I just want to know – is this a sexually transmitted infection? I’ve only been with my boyfriend!
This is a really great question – one that I often get asked at the STI clinic that I work at. I think one of the reasons Bacterial Vaginosis (or BV) is commonly mistaken for an STI is due to the fact that the symptoms are often very similar! This is also why individuals with these symptoms typically seek screening, and then subsequent diagnosis and treatment, at sexual health centers – further connecting the two. Bacterial Vaginosis is a condition in which the vaginal microbiome becomes unbalanced – meaning there’s an imbalance or overgrowth of normal bacteria. Usually, the vagina can be considered a “self-cleaning oven” when it comes to keeping bacteria in check, but once in a while it may need a little help! Although BV is one of the most common vaginal infections, it is not actually considered an STI. According to the National Health Service, there has been no research to show that BV can be spread to a partner who has a penis, however there have been a few cases in which transmission has taken place between partners who both have vaginas. Research also indicates that risk for BV goes up with the amount of new partners! Symptoms typically include unusual vaginal discharge that can be thin, watery, clear or white and can often have a fishy odor. A BV infection can also cause itching and/or discomfort with penetration. See your healthcare provider or head on over to your local sexual health center if you are concerned you may have BV – you may need antibiotics!
Danielle LeBlanc, RN
Danielle is a Registered Nurse who works in Nova Scotia, Canada and splits her time between the Sexually Transmitted Infections Clinic, Abortion Clinic, and caring for people in the community who have been diagnosed with HIV and Hepatitis C.
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.