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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when there's a change in the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina.
Your vagina should contain bacteria called lactobacilli, which produce lactic acid. This makes the vagina slightly acidic, which prevents other bacteria from growing there.
Women with BV tend to have a temporary shortage of lactobacilli, which means their vagina isn't as acidic as it should be. This allows other types of bacteria to grow.
It's still unclear what causes this change, although your risk is increased if you:
For reasons that are unclear, BV is more common in black women than in other ethnic groups.
BV isn't generally considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, there's conflicting evidence on the subject.
Evidence that suggests BV may be an STI includes:
There's also evidence that women with BV can pass the condition to women they have sex with, although how this happens is still unclear.
However, there's also evidence to suggest BV may not be an STI, as:
Many experts think sexual activity plays a role in BV, but other factors are probably also responsible for the condition.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease, and some are good for you.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
STIs are diseases passed on through intimate sexual contact, such as vaginal, oral or anal sex.
The uterus (or womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman where a baby grows during pregnancy.
The vagina is a tube of muscle that runs from the cervix (the opening of the womb) to the vulva (the external sexual organs).