There are common questions that we can answer about all health topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected." Answers to these questions are found under Condition Information. Each health topic frequently has specific questions that pertain only to that topic. We have answered those in this section.
Are there diseases or conditions associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV)?
BV can increase the risk of acquiring certain diseases and conditions, including1,2:
- Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases from an infected partner
- Infections following certain types of surgery, such as hysterectomy, abortion, and caesarean delivery
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
If a woman is infected with HIV and has BV, there is an increased risk of passing HIV/AIDS to her partner and possibly to her child if she is pregnant2,3,4.
If I have bacterial vaginosis (BV), will I be able to get pregnant?
There is no indication that BV affects a woman's ability to get pregnant.
However, BV is associated with certain risks to the fetus, including delivering an infant preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and delivering an infant with a low birth weight (generally, 5.5 pounds or less).2 If you are planning a pregnancy and have recently been diagnosed with BV, you should discuss your plans with your health care provider. He or she may wish to perform a follow-up examination to ensure that you have been successfully treated before you try to get pregnant.
How does bacterial vaginosis (BV) affect pregnancy?
Pregnant women with BV are more likely to deliver a preterm infant (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and to have an infant with a low birth weight (generally, 5.5 pounds or less).1,2
Scientists estimate that each year in the United States, 80,000 preterm births, 4,000 infant deaths, and 4,000 cases of damage to an infant's nervous system are related to pregnant women having BV.5
The types of bacteria that cause BV can sometimes infect other parts of the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).2 If a woman develops PID because of infection with BV, she is more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy—a pregnancy in which the fetus develops outside of the womb. Fetuses that develop ectopically (outside of the womb) usually do not survive. PID can also increase a woman's chances of becoming infertile.2
For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that any woman who has had a premature delivery or an infant with a low birth weight be screened for BV. Other women who are planning a pregnancy should discuss screening for BV with their health care provider.6
What are some common misconceptions about bacterial vaginosis (BV)?
There are several misconceptions about the ways in which a woman can develop BV, including that she can get it by2:
- Sitting on a toilet seat
- Touching and/or laying on bedding
- Swimming in a swimming pool
There is no evidence that any of these actions contributes to or causes a woman to develop BV.
How can I avoid getting bacterial vaginosis (BV) from sex?
Although BV is not always transmitted sexually, the only way to avoid the sexual transmission of BV is to practice abstinence. If you decide to engage in sex, steps that will minimize your risk of developing BV include2:
- Limiting the number of sexual partners that you have
- Using condoms consistently
Is there anything else I can do to lower my risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV)?
To lower your risk of BV you should avoid douching. Douching removes some of the bacteria that are normally present in your vagina, which protect you from infection.2
You can keep your vaginal bacteria in balance by washing your external genitalia daily with mild soap and wearing cotton or cotton-lined underpants.2 Avoiding tight pants and pantyhose, especially in the summer when you are perspiring more, will also lower your risk.
What are the risks to my fetus if I have bacterial vaginosis (BV) and become HIV positive?
BV can increase a woman's risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an infected partner.1,2 Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy or breastfeeding is the major reason children develop HIV/AIDS. Therefore, if you become HIV positive while you are pregnant and don't receive antiretroviral drugs, your fetus is at risk of also becoming HIV positive.
In addition to mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, HIV can be passed to your infant during breastfeeding. If you have HIV/AIDS, you are not being treated, and you breastfeed your infant, the overall risk of the child acquiring HIV/AIDS (during pregnancy and breastfeeding) is as high as 45%. Even without breastfeeding, your child runs a risk of anywhere from 15% to 30% if you do not receive antiretroviral drugs.
Preventing or curing BV will not prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, HIV/AIDS medications must be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2008). Bacterial vaginosis fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.cfm [top]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Bacterial vaginosis: CDC fact sheet. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm [top]
- Farquhar, C., Mbori-Ngacha, D., Overbaugh, J., Wamalwa, D., Harris, J., Bosire, R., et al. (2010). Illness during pregnancy and bacterial vaginosis are associated with in-utero HIV-1 transmission. AIDS, 24, 153–155. [top]
- Frank, D.N., Manigart, O., Leroy, V., Meda, N., Valéa, D., Zhang, W., et al. (2012). Altered vaginal microbiota are associated with perinatal mother-to-child transmission of HIV in African women from Burkina Faso. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 60, 299–306. [top]
- National Institutes of Health. (2000). NIH news alert: NICHD study shows treatment fails to prevent preterm birth. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/pages/vaginosis.aspx [top]
- American Pregnancy Association. (2005). Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bacterialvaginoses.htm [top]