How To Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis: Knowing The Symptoms of BV

Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginitis caused by too many bad bacteria around the vagina. Learn what you can do to prevent bacterial vaginosis.

Dr. Victoria Scott
By The Promescent Team Medically reviewed by Dr. Victoria Scott Last updated 12/11/2023
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how to avoid bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis may offer no symptoms at all but still poses risks. This common vaginal condition is related to the disruption of good and bad bacteria in the vagina.

There are many ways to prevent bacterial vaginosis, from avoiding perfumed hygiene products to using adequate protection during sex.

Quick FAQs

Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginitis that's caused by too many bad bacteria in and around the vagina.

A few ways bacterial vaginosis can be prevented include avoiding perfumed hygiene products, wearing breathable clothing, and using adequate protection during sex.

Bacterial vaginosis is generally treated through the use of antibiotics such as clindamycin or metronidazole.

Taking proper precautions will help make getting the condition less likely. Here's a closer look and how to prevent bacterial vaginosis.

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common type of vaginitis caused by too many bad bacteria in and around the vagina.

As Dr. Victoria Scott from the Down There Doctors explains, “This is when the amount of “good” bacteria, Lactobacillus Species, decreases, and the “bad” bacteria take over as the more dominant species in the vagina.”

She further notes that as a result of this occurrence, lactic acid decreases, making the vagina less healthy.

Certain things can disrupt the delicate balance and allow an overabundance of harmful (facultative and anaerobic) bacteria.

The overabundance of unhealthy bacteria causes a microbial biofilm over vaginal skin cells. According to Dr. Scott, this often leads to uncomfortable symptoms like foul-smelling discharge and itching, but may not portray any noticeable symptoms at all in many cases.

BV is considered to be the most common condition that affects the vagina among women between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age with an incidence prevalence as high as 29 percent globally.

How to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis

1. Avoid Perfumed Hygiene Products

The feminine hygiene market is rife with fragrance products. But these products should be avoided to prevent BV.

Heavily perfumed soap, pads or tampons, or deodorant products can damage the good bacteria that live around the vagina. 

Further, antibacterial soaps should be avoided because they can disrupt the natural vagina flora that helps keep it healthy.

2. Skip the Douching and Overcleaning of the Vagina

Dr. Scott strongly recommends not douching. The vagina does not require any additional cleaning beyond usual showering or bathing. Overdoing it can be a risk factor for BV.

Douching does not prevent infections of the vagina and does more harm than good by flushing away good bacteria.

Use only warm water and unscented soap to clean around the vulva, labia, and vaginal opening.

3. Wear Breathable Clothing

BV can be more likely if you don't allow the vaginal area to "breathe."


  • Tight-fitting underwear
  • Tight pants or shorts
  • Nylon underwear

Instead, opt for materials that encourage airflow. For example, cotton underwear can be better at thwarting the risks of BV because the material is moisture-wicking and allows air to reach the delicate skin.

As a side note, changing underwear and clothing quickly when they are damp is also important for preventing instances of vaginitis. 

Also, be sure to change pads or pantyliners often. Moist environments can be conducive to bacterial and yeast growth.

4. Use Adequate Protection During Sex

While BV is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), there is some relation between sex and BV.

The condition is more common among sexually active females. Not using condoms or having multiple sexual partners are considered risk factors for bacterial vaginosis. 

Additionally, having unprotected sex while having BV can heighten the risks of contracting an STI like Chlamydia or trichomoniasis (trich).

Another fact to keep in mind is that there’s a 2.5-fold higher likelihood of having BV for women who have female-to-female sex.

Oral-genital contact may even be a risk factor. Therefore, adequate protection during sex and oral sex is important.

To lower the risks of BV:

  • Limit contact with multiple sexual partners
  • Always wear a condom during penetrative sex
  • Use Lorals for Protection or a dental dam during oral sex

Dr. Scott also recommends that condoms be used during sexual activity.

5. Keep Sex Toys Clean and Sanitary

Bacteria can thrive on sex toys long after they have been used. Shared sex toys may pass BV from one female partner to another.

Always keep sex toys clean and sanitary after each use, and avoid sharing sex toys with others.

A few pointers to remember:

  • Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning toys after use
  • Invest in high-quality sex toys that are easy to keep clean and don't become porous with use
  • Use condoms on shared sex toys to prevent the passage of bacteria

6. Avoid Anus-to-Vagina Bacteria Transfer

The bacteria that thrive around the rectum can disrupt vaginal flora balance, so transferring these bacteria to the vaginal area should be avoided as much as possible.

To avoid transferring bacteria from your anal area to your vaginal area:

  • Always wipe from front to back
  • Avoid vaginal sex after anal sex without cleaning first
  • Keep sex toys that may be used for both anal and vaginal stimulation clean when switching stimulation points

Symptoms of BV

While as many as 84 percent of individuals with BV may not notice their symptoms, noticeable symptoms are easy to point out.

BV symptoms can include:

  • Gray, white, or greenish vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal discharge that has a potent "fishy" odor that may be worse after sex
  • Itching and irritation around the vagina
  • A burning sensation during urination

How to Treat BV

BV is most often treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, and may not go away without treatment.

If you suspect you have BV, it is important to reach out to a medical provider for an evaluation. 

After performing a pelvic exam, the doctor may look at a sample of your discharge using a microscope and measure the pH level of the sample to make a proper diagnosis.

The most common medications prescribed for BV include either oral or topical clindamycin or metronidazole. Usually, a round of antibiotics will be used for about seven days, but 10 to 15 percent of patients may need a longer treatment plan.


BV is highly common and easily treated, but there are steps you can take to prevent the condition.

Primarily, protect the delicate flora of your vagina by avoiding fragrances, douching, tight clothing, and unprotected sexual activity.

If BV is contracted, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition. In most cases it will take one round of antibiotic treatment. In rare cases, it may take two rounds.

Because BV can heighten your risks of STI, it is important to reach out to a medical provider for treatment if you suspect symptoms.

Dr. Victoria Scott

Dr. Victoria Scott

Dr. Victoria Scott is a urogynecologist in Los Angeles. She has published multiple peer-reviewed manuscripts and presented her research at numerous national conferences. She is passionate about empowering women with knowledge about the pelvic floor as a part of the Down There Doctors and is a co-author of the book, A Woman’s Guide to Her Pelvic Floor: What the f*@# is going on down there?


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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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