Smiling young woman with red hair, wearing a green shirt, happy after Canesten bacterial vaginosis treatment

What is Bacterial vaginosis

Learn what is BV and what bacterial vaginosis symptoms are. You can find out who is more prone to getting this infection and what the differences between thrush and BV are. 

Bacterial Vaginosis?

It may be unpleasant and prevent you from living your life to the full, but don’t stress it’s treatable and very common - Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) affects approximately 12% of Australian women1. BV is a vaginal infection caused by bacteria rather than by yeast (which is the case for thrush) and occurs when there is an imbalance of microflora in your vagina.  

Normally your vagina is acidic, which stops bad bacteria from overgrowing and helps maintain a healthy level of good bacteria. However, sometimes the conditions in your vagina can change. It can become less acidic, which leads to the growth of bad bacteria causing bacterial vaginosis. 

You are more likely to get BV if: 

  • You are sexually active (but women who have not had sex can also get BV), 

  • You have changed your partner, 

  • You have an IUD (a contraception device), 

  • You use perfumed products in and around your vagina, 

  • You are on your period, 

  • You are taking certain medications, such as antibiotics.

1. Bradshaw CS, Walker J, Fairley CK, Chen MY, Tabrizi SN, et al. (2013) Prevalent and Incident Bacterial Vaginosis Are Associated with Sexual and Contraceptive Behaviours in Young Australian Women

Bacterial Vaginosis symptoms

Getting bacterial vaginosis might be worrying because the symptoms are not pleasant: you will notice a fishy smell and greyish, watery discharge from your vagina. Those symptoms can worsen after having sex. You should know that some women who have BV might not experience any symptoms at all. 

So, how do I know it’s not thrush? 

Women often mistake bacterial vaginosis for thrush, but these are two different infections and they should be treated differently. The symptoms of thrush are: soreness and itchiness around your vagina, cottage cheese like discharge that’s odorless and burning sensation when passing urine. Bacterial vaginosis causes a fishy odor and greyish watery discharge. BV may not cause you soreness or itchiness in your vagina. 

The different symptoms mean you may be unsure what infection you have. That’s when you can use Canesten Vaginal pH Self Test, the simple home test measuring the pH level of your vagina with over 90% accuracy1. Combining the results from the test and your symptoms you can determine whether you might have BV, in which case you should see your GP for treatment advice.

If the test says I have a bacterial infection

If you've used the Canesten Vaginal pH Self Test and the swab has turned blue or green, it shows that you have an elevated vaginal pH. This means that it's not thrush and you likely have a bacterial infection such as BV, which is causing a pH imbalance. Consult your doctor for treatment advice.

1. Nyirjesy, Paul, et al. "The performance of an innovative self-sampling test for vaginitis-Selfcare Journal". SelfCare 2017;8(3):1-11. Study funded by Common Sense, Caesarea, Israel.

Other tips for better vaginal health:

  • Don’t use deodorants or perfumed products in and around your vaginal area, 

  • Don’t over-wash, 

  • Don’t douche inside your vagina, 

  • Don’t use strong detergents to wash your underwear,

  • Change tampons and pads frequently, 

  • Ensure you wipe from front to back when going to the toilet, 

  • Change your underwear after swimming or working out.