Symptom Checker

BV and Sex

By Helen Knox

Let’s face it, watery discharge, a fishy smell and vulval and/or vaginal irritation aren’t going to get you in the mood for great sex. And the irony is that having unprotected sex with a male partner can even bring on a bout of BV (bacterial vaginosis)! One of the roots of a good sex life (of which there are many), is a happy, healthy vagina and in this article I’m going to look at ways you can keep your vagina healthy.

Your vagina is a really complex and amazing thing. In fact, inside your vagina there is a system of millions of micro-organisms, all working together to maintain a perfect pH balance and protect you from infection, or other problems.

BV is one of many vaginal conditions that can affect a woman’s sex life and how she feels about it, but luckily once identified, it’s easy to treat. Even though it’s one of the most common vaginal conditions, and it’s thought to be more prevalent than thrush, many women misdiagnose it simply because they haven’t heard of BV and don’t understand the symptoms. So, to clarify, if you think you might have BV, you may be noticing:

  • a fishy odour coming from your vulva;
  • a thin and watery, even greyish vaginal discharge;
  • some discomfort down below resulting from the abnormal discharge.

If it’s itching, burning or there is a thick curd like discharge it’s likely to be thrush (candidiasis / a yeast infection) and you’ll need to treat that condition specifically. BV is different and once diagnosed correctly, can be treated by antibiotics on prescription, or by acidifying gels (such as Balance Activ) that you can buy online or from the pharmacy. Your doctor or healthcare professional will be able to help you identify the problem correctly if you’re not sure, or if this is a recurrent problem and your present treatment doesn’t seem to be working.

Semen is alkaline and often women find they notice a fishy smell after having sex. This is because the vagina wants to be slightly acidic, but if it’s knocked out of balance by the alkaline semen, and it can trigger BV. But BV doesn’t have to be a problem. If it tends to recur after sex you can try using a condom, peeing straight after sex and / or using a lactic acid gel after you have had sex to reset the balance in there.

Of course it’s not just about the health of your vagina, but if you’ve got that sorted, you’re starting on a level playing field. For some tips and further information about BV, there is a detailed chapter about it and many other conditions in one of my books, “Sexplained One – Sex & Your Health”. See for more information about the books.