Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms – How Do You Know If You Have BV?

The Two Main Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, so it helps to know the common symptoms to watch out for. Here are the two most common bacterial vaginosis symptoms:

Bacterial Vaginosis Symptom #1: Vaginal Discharge

If you have BV, you can get a thin vaginal discharge with a white or grayish color. You may either experience this as a very heavy discharge or a just a small trickle throughout the day that wets your underwear.

Bacterial Vaginosis Symptom #2: Fishy Vaginal Odor

It’s quite common for the vaginal discharge to have a fishy odor. In most cases this odor is barely noticeable, but there are times when it can be particularly strong, such as after sex.

Are Itchiness And Burning Also Common Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms?

I have seen a lot of sites here on the internet where people mention itchyness and discomfort being common bacterial vaginosis symptoms, but this is not true.

Having increased vaginal discharge with NO discomfort or itching is actually more diagnostic of BV. When you DO have itching or discomfort, then your doctor would be more likely to suspect a different type of infection altogether, such as a yeast infection.

Saying that, in a few cases women CAN experience some burning on urinating and/or itching around the outside of the vagina.

Alternative Diagnoses – What Else Could It Be If It Isn’t BV?

There are a number of other conditions that have overlapping symptoms with BV.

Alternative Diagnosis #1: Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)

Yeast and bacteria are different types of organisms, and they are both found in the normal, healthy vagina.

Bacteria are killed by antibiotics, yeast cells are not. Here are the symptoms you may experience with a yeast infection:

  • White, cottage cheese-like discharge
  • Swelling and pain around the vulva
  • Intense itching
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Yeast infections are treated using antifungal medication. Antibiotics will make a yeast infection worse, so it’s important to know which infection you have.

Alternative Diagnosis #2: Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic parasite, which can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms are as follows:

  • A watery, yellowish or greenish typically frothy or foamy discharge
  • A foul odor that can be difficult to tell apart from the odor of BV
  • Vaginal itching
  • Pain and itching when urinating and/or having sex

Other Alternative Diagnoses

Other infections that can cause a vaginal discharge include the two sexually transmitted infections chlamydia and gonorrhea.

How Do You Know If You Have BV And Not Something Else?

Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell just from your symptoms whether you have BV or one of the other infections mentioned above.

Since BV is one of the most common vaginal infections, having vaginal discharge and/or fishy odor without any itching or discomfort make it highly likely that you are experiencing bacterial vaginosis symptoms rather than something else.

On top of that if you get a home testing kit and measure the acidity levels inside your vagina (in BV you have low acidity or a high pH), then it would be further likely that you are suffering from bacterial vaginosis symptoms.

Saying that however, the only way for you to get a proper definitive diagnosis is to go and see your doctor. Your doctor will send off a small sample of your vaginal fluid to the lab for analysis. The results of this analysis will be more accurate than any methods you can use at home.