Is bacterial vaginosis a STI?

Reviewed by Jen S. DNP, APRN

Time saver 3 min read

Most women don’t think a lot about their vaginas. That is, until something seems off. Your vagina may feel irritated or maybe you notice an unusual discharge or odd smell. These symptoms are all commonly experienced by women who have bacterial vaginosis or BV.

While super common, there are a lot of misconceptions about what BV is and how and why you may get it. For example, a lot of people wonder: Is BV a sexually transmitted disease or infection? Keep reading to learn more about BV, if you can get BV by having sex and why it’s important to get treated for BV.

What is BV?

Bacterial vaginosis is a very common type of vaginal infection. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of women will get BV during their lifetime and BV is the most common type of vaginal infection among women ages 15 to 44.

BV can develop when the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina is disrupted. If this happens, you may experience irritation and swelling in your vaginal area. You may also notice gray or off-white vaginal discharge that’s thin and watery. For many women with BV, the most noticeable symptom is a strong vaginal fish-like odor.

Is BV a STI?

A lot of people think BV is a sexually transmitted disease or infection. While having sex is considered a risk factor for developing BV, you can get BV even if you’ve never had sex. So no, BV is not a STI. It’s important to note though that your risk of getting BV increases with the number of sexual partners you have and women who have sex with other women have a higher risk of getting BV.

Because BV is often linked to sexual activity, people may think it’s contagious. But really anything that changes the bacterial balance in your vagina can cause irritation and lead to an infection. In addition to having sex, things like douching, having an IUD and even getting your period can all disrupt your vaginal PH levels and increase your chances of getting BV. Additionally, if you get BV once, you’re likely to get it again.

Similarities between BV and STIs

Many of the symptoms you may experience with BV – including unusual discharge and odor and vaginal irritation and swelling – are similar to those of common STIs. Because of this, it can be hard to know if you have BV or if you could have a sexually transmitted disease. If you have these types of symptoms, it’s important to figure out the root cause. When left untreated, many STIs can cause serious and life-altering health complications including infertility. To ensure you get the correct and most effective treatment, it’s a good idea to routinely get tested for STIs.

Do I need to get treated for BV?

If you suspect or know you have BV, it’s a good idea to seek medical care and treatment. If not treated, BV can increase your risk of getting STIs like HIV, genital herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Thankfully, BV is easy to treat with antibiotics. Once on antibiotics, your symptoms should start to improve within a couple of days.

However, even if you start to feel better, it’s important to take your medicine for the total number of days as prescribed. If you fail to take the full course of antibiotics, your infection could come right back or you could experience complications related to antibiotic resistance.

Get online treatment for BV

When changes in your vaginal health occur, you want to figure out what’s going on and get the answers and treatment you need to feel better fast. With Virtuwell, it’s easier than ever to get online treatment for BV. If you’re age 26 or older and have previously been diagnosed with BV, Virtuwell can treat you today—all from the comfort of your home, 24/7.