Article Text


P3.005 The Burden of Bacterial Vaginosis: Women’s Experience of Living with Recurrent Bacterial Vaginsosis
  1. J E Bilardi1,
  2. S Walker2,
  3. M Temple-Smith2,
  4. R McNair2,
  5. J Mooney-Somers3,
  6. C Bellhouse2,
  7. S Peterson4,
  8. C K Fairley5,
  9. M Y Chen5,
  10. C Bradshaw5
  1. 1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  3. 3The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Melbourne, Australia
  5. 5The University of Melbourne & Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Melbourne, Australia


Background Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection, causing an abnormal vaginal discharge and/or odour in up to 50% of sufferers. Recurrence is common following recommended treatment. There are limited published data on women’s experience of BV, and the impact of recurrent BV on their self-esteem, sexual relationships and quality of life. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences and impact of recurrent BV on women.

Methods Social constructionism informed the epistemological framework of this study. Thirty five women with male and/or female partners were interviewed face-to-face or by phone about their experience of recurrent BV. All interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and imported into N-Vivo 9 for thematic analysis.

Results Interviews took 20–45 minutes. Median number of diagnosed BV episodes in participants was 3 (range 2–25). Most women attributed BV to some form of sexual contact including specific sexual partners, frequency of sex, unprotected sex or certain sexual practises. The impact of BV varied according to severity of symptoms - the more severe, the greater the impact. The most distressing symptom was abnormal odour, with women commonly feeling embarrassed, ashamed, unattractive, ‘dirty’ and concerned others may detect the odour. The biggest impact was on women’s sex lives, with women commonly avoiding sexual activity, especially oral sex and employing preventative practises to minimise odour including frequent showering and self-help remedies. Women commonly felt confused and frustrated about why they were experiencing recurrent BV, the lack of effective treatment and preventative options and poor public and professional knowledge around BV.

Conclusion Recurrent BV impacted on women broadly and significantly in this study but varied according to symptom severity. Women would like a greater understanding about the cause of BV, better available treatment options and improved knowledge and support amongst clinicians.

  • bacterial vaginosis
  • qualitative
  • women‘s experience

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.