The probiotics present in your vagina play an important role in its bacterial ecosystem. They produce lactic acid, making the pH level in your vagina slightly acidic. This creates an environment that helps prevent pathogenic bacteria from causing an infection.
In essence, bacterial vaginosis is simply the imbalance between Lactobacillus and the multitude of pathogenic strains living inside your vagina, such as:3
✓ Streptococcus viridans
✓ Mycoplasma hominis
✓ Atopbium vaginae
How Bacterial Vaginosis Can Become Contagious
One question that is commonly asked about bacterial vaginosis is whether it's contagious or not. The answer is it's not necessarily contagious. Bacterial vaginosis usually develops (and can be transmitted) among sexually active women, but it can occur among the celibate as well.4
In addition, doctors are not clear how sexual activity plays a role in the development of bacterial vaginosis, but they did notice that the more sex partners you have, the greater your risk for having it.5
This is most likely due to the bacteria that each partner brings every time you engage in intercourse. You may also develop bacterial vaginosis even if you have sexual intercourse with women.6
But can men get bacterial vaginosis as well? The answer is no. Bacterial vaginosis in men is not possible as it is a vaginal disease only.7 Despite the risk of spreading via sexual intercourse, bacterial vaginosis is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Again, this is because even women who are not sexually active may get the disease.
Factors That Increase Your Risk of Bacterial Vaginosis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 21.2 million women ages 14 to 49 are diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis annually. The causes of bacterial vaginosis aren't entirely understood, but there are certain factors that increase your risk of getting it:10
Douching disrupts the balance between the probiotic and pathogenic bacteria inside your vagina. Doctors recommend that you stop douching and wash your genitals with a mild soap and water instead.
• Using Scented Bath Products
Scented soaps, bubble baths and other fragrance-containing products contain harsh chemicals that may irritate your vagina and subsequently cause a bacterial imbalance.
• Practicing Unsafe Sex
If your partner is not using a condom, you may have a higher risk for bacterial vaginosis. Having multiple sex partners also increases your risk, more so if they are composed of both men and women (along with a higher chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases).
Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common vaginal infections a pregnant woman may develop.11 Since the exact cause of the disease is unknown, it is theorized that hormonal changes during pregnancy create an environment that allow bacteria to grow in the vagina.12
It's Natural for Your Vagina to Have a Scent
According to NHS Choices, it's natural for the vagina to have a scent because it consistently emits an odor based on the reproductive cycle. However, once that the odor becomes unpleasant, that's the time you should visit the doctor, as it could indicate a probable infection.13