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Diseases & Topics

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, including pregnant women. BV occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in a woman's vagina is disrupted. The vagina normally contains mostly "good" bacteria, and fewer "harmful" bacteria. BV develops when there is an increase in harmful bacteria. It is sometimes accompanied by discharge, odor, pain, itching or burning. Having BV can increase a woman's susceptibility to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) such as HIV, herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Pregnant women with BV more often have babies who are born prematurely or with low birth weight (under 5.5 pounds).

Not much is known about how women get BV. It is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV, since women who have never had sexual intercourse may also be affected. Women do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools or from touching objects around them.

BV is treatable with antibiotics prescribed by a health care provider. Although bacterial vaginosis will sometimes clear up without treatment, all women with symptoms of BV should be treated to avoid complications, especially if they are pregnant.

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