Can you have sex with Bacterial Vaginosis?

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection that can affect any woman of any age, but is most likely to occur during a woman’s reproductive years. It occurs when there’s a significant change in the type of bacteria in the vagina and can leave you with symptoms such as a watery, thin discharge and a strong fishy odour down there. 

If left untreated, BV could increase your chances of contracting some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia. Pregnant women could also be at risk of preterm delivery or delivering a low-weight baby. This is why it’s important to seek treatment or see a doctor if you believe that you may have the infection. 

Can you have sex with BV?

You can have sex with BV, however sex could make your symptoms worse, so it may be better to avoid it completely until the infection has cleared up or symptoms have lessened. You may find that sexual intercourse is painful or uncomfortable too. This could be due to vaginal inflammation that can occur with the infection, therefore you might prefer to avoid sexual intercourse until the BV has cleared up or use a condom to prevent the symptoms from worsening.

If you have a same-sex partner, then she could also contract BV. It’s not considered a sexually transmitted infection, however, the bacteria that causes the symptoms can be passed from female to female. You should discuss treatment options with your partner to ensure that they don’t have the infection too. It is not possible for men to contract BV.

BV is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. The ‘good’ bacteria, or Lactobacillus, is usually able to keep the area clean and free from infection. However, these organisms can sometimes reduce due to an overgrowth of another type of bacteria, Gardnerella Vaginalis. It is unclear why Lactobacillus becomes reduced in numbers, but it’s thought that it could be due to strongly scented soaps, vaginal deodorants, smoking or hormonal changes. Semen can also cause a bacterial imbalance in the vagina, which could cause your BV to worsen or return after treatment. This is why it’s recommended that you should avoid having unprotected heterosexual sex and use a condom instead, particularly if you have multiple sexual partners.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, natural hormonal changes could make you more at risk of contracting the infection. You should keep an eye out for any changes in the vagina, such as unusual discharge and strong odours, and seek treatment immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. It is recommended that you avoid sex until the infection has gone and, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, use condoms in the future to protect the health of you and your baby.

Having sex with a new partner, or multiple partners, could result in your BV returning frequently. You should keep an eye on your symptoms and discuss your options with a doctor if the infection doesn’t go away. If BV goes untreated, it could make you more likely to contract other infections, including Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. 


How long to wait for sex after BV treatment

Although you can have sex when you have BV, once it’s been treated, you should avoid having sex for at least 7 days. This doesn’t mean you take the treatment for 1 week and then have sex. You will need to take the full course of treatment and then wait a further 7 days before having sex. For example, if you’re provided with 1 week of treatment, you will need to wait a total of 14 days before engaging in sexual intercourse. This will give your vagina enough time to get rid of the infection and produce a sufficient amount of Lactobacillus to rebalance its bacteria levels.

Semen can have an effect on the bacteria in your vagina, which could cause the infection to return. If you do have heterosexual sex after BV treatment, then you should ensure that you use a condom. If you’re having sex with a female partner, ensure that they’re aware of your previous infection and avoid sharing sex toys. 

When you’re taking treatment for BV, such as BV Gel, you should ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and complete the course of treatment. When you finish the treatment, it’s thought that BV will return in around 30 per cent of cases. This is quite normal and you many need to re-treat. If the infection persists, you should speak to your doctor, who will recommend further treatment. You should also see your doctor if the infection returns twice within 6 months. 


* This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. You should consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.