Symptom Checker

So, what is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Although ‘Bacterial Vaginosis’ sounds scary BV is actually very common, in fact more women in the UK suffer from it than any other vaginal condition. And it’s twice as prevalent as thrush, even though BV is often mistaken for thrush, mainly because thrush is better known and understood. Because very few people have heard of BV they typically treat symptoms as thrush. This can cause recurrences of BV and sometimes lead to thrush!

BV occurs when there’s a change in the natural pH balance in your vagina. This allows certain bacteria to grow which leads to symptoms such as strong vaginal odour and excess watery discharge. Being
aware of the various triggers and signs as well as treatments is essential for managing your intimate health.

Causes of BV are numerous but often totally natural. It could be a new sexual partner (semen can alter the vagina’s pH), your contraception (specifically an intrauterine device aka IUD) or even just having your period!

What Causes BV?

Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV, occurs when there’s a change in the natural pH balance in the vagina. This then causes a change in the bacterial environment.

Healthy vaginas are slightly acidic, thanks to the presence of good bacteria called lactobacilli that produce lactic acid. However, if these are in short supply, harmful bacteria can grow and trigger occurrences of BV.

Help recognising the symptoms of BV

Confused? That’s understandable. Luckily there are some distinct differences between the most common intimate health conditions

Symptoms of BV Symptoms of Thrush Symptoms of Trich
Is there a smell? Possible fishy smell No smell Unpleasant strong smell
Do you have a discharge? Thin, watery, possibly greyish white discharge or abnormally large amount of discharge Thick, white, curd-like discharge Yellow or green frothy discharge
Do you have itchiness or discomfort? Occasional discomfort Intense itching or even a burning sensation Soreness and possible inflammation
Redness and irritation of the skin around the vulva Pain during sex or when passing urine


Not sure if you have BV or thrush?

Our FREE, comprehensive symptom checker can help determine whether you may have BV or thrush and offer treatments

Try the Symptom Checker

What are the triggers and causes of BV?

BV is totally normal and natural. It can be caused by lots of things but here is an idea of the most common causes:

Internal washing

this can upset your vagina’s natural balance

Perfumed ‘intimate hygiene’ products


Your monthly menstrual cycle can upset the balance


as the pH of semen is actually higher than the pH of your vagina

Up to 72% of women will get recurrence of BV within 7 months

What treatments are available for BV?

Balance Activ BV treatment, has been shown to be as effective as antibiotics in relieving symptoms of BV. It contains lactic acid and glycogen, working with your body to promote the growth of good bacteria and restore the natural vaginal balance. You can buy this in the shops or get it on prescription.

Antibiotics are also available on prescription from your doctor or pharmacist (although they can upset the delicate balance of bacteria), while some people even choose home remedies.

You can talk through the treatment options with your doctor or GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) clinic.