The relationship between bacterial vaginosis (BV) and the idea of potential infidelity can cause a lot of anxiety for people who are struggling with BV, especially for the first time.

Our health coaches often get asked: is BV a sign of cheating? And the short answer is no, a case of bacterial vaginosis is not a sure-fire sign that your partner is cheating on you.

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by a bacterial overgrowth in your vaginal microbiome (most commonly, Gardnerella). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44, and almost 30% of people with vaginas get bacterial vaginosis each year.

It can be really annoying to deal with, especially if you have recurrent bacterial vaginosis. The most common bacterial vaginosis symptoms are unusual vaginal discharge that is gray and thin, and vaginal odor that has a fishy smell.

Although scientists still don’t know exactly why this happens, we know that many factors can increase your risk for bacterial vaginosis: 

Though the CDC officially recognized that BV can be transmitted sexually, it’s not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because any person with a vagina can develop bacterial vaginosis even if they’re not sexually active.

That is all to say that getting bacterial vaginosis, even in a committed, established relationship, is by no means a sign of infidelity. The cause might actually have nothing to do with your sex life! 

On that note, if you feel worried about talking to your partner about having bacterial vaginosis or any other vaginal infection, you’re not alone. Anxiety around discussing vaginal health, even in a long-term committed relationship, is normal. It can be a little awkward and nerve-wracking, but talking frankly about sexual and vaginal health can help build intimacy and trust. 

Check out our tips on how to communicate with your partner about first-time and recurrent vaginal infections.

Recurrent symptoms? Meet Evvy's at-home vaginal microbiome test, approved by leading OB-GYNs.
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FAQs

Is bacterial vaginosis an STD? 

No, bacterial vaginosis isn’t a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection. Although it can be passed on via sex, you can get it even if you’re not sexually active. It happens when naturally occurring bacteria overgrow and throw off your vaginal pH. Many things can trigger bacterial vaginosis, including taking antibiotics, being on your period, smoking, and using feminine hygiene products. 

Why did my boyfriend keep giving me BV?

Sex can be a risk factor for bacterial vaginosis for several reasons. Semen can increase your vaginal pH, which creates a more favorable environment for bad bacteria and other pathogens to overgrow. Some studies also show that although men can’t get bacterial vaginosis, they can be carriers of the bacteria and pass it on to people with vaginas during penetrative sex. The best way to prevent bacterial vaginosis (including recurrent BV) after having sex is by using barrier methods, such as condoms or dental dams. One study found that consistent condom use decreased the risk of BV by 45%. Fun fact: women can pass on bacterial vaginosis to their female partners during sex, too.

Can you get BV in a monogamous relationship?

Yes. Anyone with a vagina can get bacterial vaginosis, whether they’re sexually active or not, single, or in a relationship. Sex (especially unprotected sex) can increase your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, and men can pass the bacteria to people with a vagina during sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sign of cheating.