Young woman covering her face with her hands while wondering whether bacterial vaginosis is an STD

Is Bacterial Vaginosis an STD?

Medically reviewed on May 16, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is the most common condition affecting the vagina. In fact, it’s prevalent among young and adult reproductive-aged women between the ages of 15 and 44. [1] Knowing this, you may wonder, Is bacterial vaginosis an STD?

Because bacterial vaginosis isn’t an infection, it’s not an STD/STI—rather, it’s an adverse condition that arises when the bacterial ecology in the vagina becomes imbalanced or disturbed. [1, 7]

Although BV isn’t classified as an STD/STI, it can increase your likelihood of contracting one. [1] For this reason, understanding how BV can develop and present itself is critical to preventing BV and other related sexual health conditions.

What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?

There is no single known cause of BV. [1] However, there are some practices and habits that may heighten an individual’s risk of disturbing the vaginal flora. [4]

These include: [1]

  • Having sex – BV most commonly arises in sexually active people, particularly people who do not use condoms during sexual activity. For this reason, it’s believed there is a link between engaging in vaginal sex and potentially disturbing the bacterial ecology of the vagina.
  • Using vaginal cleaners (douches) – Douches are devices that some people use to “clean” or “wash out” the vagina. However, there is little evidence they perform this function. In many cases, douches have been shown to aggravate vaginal pH and the balance of bacteria. [1,2] Many sexual health experts believe this can contribute to developing BV. [1]
  • Taking antibiotics – Antibiotics work by altering the bacterial balance in the body. Individuals who’ve used antibiotics recently may be more susceptible to developing BV. [3]
  • Using an IUD – IUDs can be extremely effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy, but some evidence suggests a correlation between these devices and the development of BV. [3]

Like other conditions related to sexual health, many myths surround bacterial vaginosis and how it develops. However, it’s not possible to develop BV by: [1]

  • Practicing poor sexual or personal hygiene
  • Wearing the same undergarments or sleeping in the same bed as someone who has BV
  • Using a swimming pool or hot tub that someone with BV has used
  • Using a toilet seat used by someone with BV

Bacterial Vaginosis and STDs: What’s the Connection?

Research suggests that unresolved BV is correlated with a heightened risk of STIs and HIV. [7] One paper demonstrates that BV may nearly double the risk of contracting chlamydia or gonorrhea in women, especially.7 More recent research suggests that BV may elevate the risk of contracting genital herpes and HPV (human papillomavirus). [7]

While investigations into the relationship between BV and sexually transmitted diseases remain ongoing, evidence suggests a strong correlation between the two reproductive conditions. [7] For this reason, diagnosing and treating BV as soon as possible is a crucial strategy for managing risk and promoting long-term sexual health.

Who Is At Risk of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The demographic most impacted by BV are sexually active people with female anatomy, irrespective of gender identity. If you’re sexually active and do not use condoms while engaging in penetrative sex, you may be at higher risk of developing BV.

Bacterial Vaginosis Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are: [5]

  • Grey-, white-, or green-colored vaginal discharge
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that carries an odor
  • Itching around the vagina
  • Vaginal burning while urinating

However, many people who have BV may notice no observable symptoms.

How Is Bacterial Vaginosis Treated?

The most common method for treating BV is through a course of antibiotics. These may be administered topically (with cream) or orally (with a pill or tablet). Two antibiotics approved for the treatment of BV include: [4]

  • Clindamycin
  • Metronidazole

In some cases, BV may arise again after undergoing antibiotic treatment. Recurrent BV cases are relatively common, even after complete remission, affecting an estimated 50% of women who develop BV. [4]

High rates of recurrent BV are one reason why it’s crucial to follow your healthcare provider’s prescribed course of treatment. When antibiotics are taken inconsistently, incompletely, or improperly, they may increase the risk of bacterial resistance. [6] This can make them less effective at correcting the bacterial imbalance, and potentially raise your risk of developing BV again. [3]

Promote Total Sexual Health with Everlywell

While BV remains one of the more common reproductive health concerns today, it can nevertheless be a stubborn condition to deal with. Staying informed about your sexual health status with regular STD testing is just one way to take a proactive approach to care for your overall well-being.

If you’re concerned BV has put you at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, Everlywell can help. Book an online appointment for women’s health to speak with an experienced clinician specializing in BV medications and treatments online. If needed, they can recommend the best course of action for online STD testing and treatment.

Take steps to improve your health and well-being with Everlywell.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis? Causes and Symptoms of BV

What Happens if BV Goes Untreated?

Can a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Go Away On Its Own?

Common Causes of Vaginal Burning and Treatments

What Antibiotics Treat Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?


  1. STD facts - bacterial vaginosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published January 5, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  2. Team WH. Feminine odor problems? what every woman needs to know. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published December 13, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  3. What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV)? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Which treatments are effective for bacterial vaginosis? URL. Published August 9, 2018. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  5. Bacterial vaginosis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published July 21, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  6. About antibiotic resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 5, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Bacterial Vaginosis. URL. Published July 4, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
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