Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition caused when the bad bacteria inside your vagina begin to outnumber the good bacteria, leading to inflammation inside the vagina, which can result in the fishy discharge. About 1 in 3 women will have bacterial vaginosis at some time in their life. It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).


  • a change in vaginal discharge
  • discharge is thin, watery, white/grey in colour, with a strong unpleasant fishy smell.

It does not generally cause soreness, itching or irritation.

Getting tested

A sample of cells may be taken from the wall of your vagina using a swab. A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud but is smaller, soft and rounded. The test is not painful and only takes a few seconds.


Bacterial vaginosis can usually be successfully treated using a course of antibiotic tablets. Sometimes vaginal creams or gels can be used.


The following tips are thought to help prevent bacterial vaginosis:

  • do not push water into your vagina to wash (douching)
  • do not wash around your vagina and vulva too often. Once a day is usually enough
  • avoid washing with perfumed soaps and shower gels. We will give you aqueous cream to wash with.
  • if possible shower rather bath
  • do not add oils, antiseptics, scented soaps, bubble bath, shampoos, etc, to bath water
  • stop smoking
  • wear cotton underwear
  • use non-biological washing powder.