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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Can You Give BV To Your Male Partner?

by Dr Don Grant (MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip Orth Med)

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection that affects 1 in 3 women at some point in their lives, and it’s not pleasant. But the more you know about it, the better you can treat. Of course, the best treatment is prevention, and part of that is stopping it spreading. You might know that BV can be passed on through sexual contact between women, but can it be spread to a male partner? Let’s find out.


What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina, the causes of which are not known. However, the risk of developing BV can be increased by new or multiple sexual partners, certain antibiotics, the use of a contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD), as well as by using perfumed cosmetics or toiletries on the vagina.


Bacterial vaginosis symptoms

Experiences of bacterial vaginosis vary between sufferers, as most women do not display any symptoms at all. However, for the small number of women who do, they can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. The symptoms of BV include:

  • An unusually large discharge from the vagina
  • The discharge is usually thin and pale, and a greyish-white colour
  • A foul, fishy odour often accompanies the discharge
  • Some women report a burning or itching sensation when they pee or after sex

If you are unsure whether or not you have bacterial vaginosis, BV self-testing kits like Canestest can be bought over-the-counter to help you confirm.


Can men catch bacterial vaginosis?

A common misconception is that men can also catch BV. Bacterial vaginosis occurs as a result of a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. However, penises do not have the same balance of bacteria as vaginas. As a result, men cannot catch BV in the same way that women can.


Can men spread BV?

So we’ve established that men cannot suffer from or display the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. But can they still carry and spread the infection?

While men cannot catch BV, they can still carry the bacteria that causes infection in their penis. As a result, there is some evidence that bacterial vaginosis can be passed through sexual contact.

However, bacterial vaginosis is not considered to be an STI in the same way that chlamydia or other diseases are. This is because it is not primarily or exclusively transmitted through sexual contact.


How to prevent bacterial vaginosis

While bacterial vaginosis cannot always be prevented, there are things you can do to lower your risk of contracting BV:

  • Always use condoms outside of a monogamous relationship
  • Avoid using perfumed hygiene products in and around your vagina
  • After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria
  • Dry your vaginal area thoroughly after exercise, swimming, and washing


How to treat BV

If, despite taking all the necessary preventative methods, you do get bacterial vaginosis, don’t stress: sometimes it happens. But luckily, there are ways to quickly and easily relieve the symptoms of BV.

A popular medicine used to treat bacterial vaginosis is Metronidazole 400mg tablets. Metronidazole is an antibiotic that fights off the bacteria causing your BV, relieving your symptoms in just days. It consists of a seven-day course of one tablet twice a day and is available on prescription from your GP or online pharmacy.

Another treatment for BV is through the use of gels, such as Zidoval or Balance Activ gel.

Zidoval is an antibacterial gel that works by killing the bacteria that causes the BV infection. It is applied directly inside your vagina and is only available on prescription.

Balance Activ is also a gel that is applied inside your vagina, although it is not antibacterial. Instead, it works by restoring the chemical imbalance that causes bacterial vaginosis.

Whether you use gel or tablets ultimately comes down to personal preference, and both options are effective in treating your bacterial vaginosis. Click through for information on Metronidazole side effects, Metronidazole and alcohol consumption and, taking Metronidazole whilst pregnant.

While men can’t catch bacterial vaginosis in the same way women can, they can still spread it, so it’s important that you take the right steps to prevent it. While BV can still happen, it can also be treated too. Speak to our friendly online doctor today to find the bacterial vaginosis treatment that’s right for you.

Authored By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Published on: 08-01-2019

Last modified on: 08-01-2019

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Reviewed on: 08-01-2019

Next review date: 08-01-2021

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

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