If you have a vagina, you are probably familiar with bacterial vaginosis or BV. And how could you not be? Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common vaginal infections caused by an overgrowth of bacteria within the vaginal flora. 

BV is often annoying, uncomfortable, or even embarrassing. And if you’ve noticed new infections or increased infections after becoming sexually active with a new partner, you might be wondering, “Can men get BV? Does my partner have BV and giving it to me?”

The answer is both yes and no. No, your male partner cannot have BV because they don’t have a vagina. But yes, they can be contributing to your BV infections. How is that possible? Let’s dive into it.

Can you get BV from a male partner?

While men cannot experience BV themselves because they don’t have a vagina, research suggests that sexually active men can pass BV to their female partners during sex. One particular study of 165 uncircumcised men with multiple female partners actually found these men carried BV-causing bacteria on their penises, putting their partners at an increased risk of getting BV. 

How long can a man carry BV-causing bacteria? 

One study recently published in Cell Reports Medicine found that men having vaginal sex not only carried the bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis but that the bacteria was detectable for at least two months after sex. Which is… not ideal for us females and can explain how a particular sexual partner seems to trigger recurring BV infections. 

Is BV a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

No. Although there is a link between sexual activity and BV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not consider BV to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD). While BV is more prevalent in people who are having sex, particularly those having unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, people who are not sexually active can also get BV. 

Unlike BV and vaginal yeast infections, STIs can affect men and women both. Some common examples of STIs include:

  • Syphilis (Treponema Pallidum)
  • Genital herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus – HSV)
  • Gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
  • Trichomoniasis (Trichomonas vaginalis)
  • Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis)

Why do BV symptoms worsen after sex?

If you have noticed your BV symptoms seem to increase or worsen after sex, you aren’t alone. The most common BV symptoms noticed after sex are: 

This is because not only does vaginal sex introduce or reintroduce bad, BV-causing bacteria to your vaginal microbiome (and remember, BV-causing bacteria can live on a penis for more than 2 months), but vaginal sex can also irritate the vagina, worsening the discomfort that comes from BV. 

Can you give BV to your male partner?

No, you cannot give BV to your male sex partner. Remember, BV is a vaginal infection, so a vagina is definitely required. But you can introduce the BV-causing bacteria to your partner, who can then reintroduce it to your vaginal microbiome later, instigating a second infection and fueling a cycle of recurrent BV. 

Can you have sex with BV? 

Can you? Sure. Should you? Probably not. As we said, it can exacerbate BV symptoms, which can not only make you more uncomfortable than necessary but can prolong your current infection and put you at increased risk of recurrent BV from your partner. 

Can you have sex during BV treatment? 

Same answer as above. Yes, you can have sex while receiving an antibiotic treatment like metronidazole, but you probably shouldn’t. Recurrent BV is no joke, so do what you need to do to clear the infection entirely. 

How long should you wait to have sex after BV treatment?  

This is a great question to ask your healthcare provider or gynecologist when they first prescribe you a BV treatment like antibiotics. But generally, the rule of thumb regarding BV and sex is to wait at least 7 days AFTER completing your full round of antibiotics. So if you get prescribed a 3-day round of antibiotics or a 7-day round, add another 7 days to that before resuming sexual activity. 

How do you avoid getting recurrent BV from your partner? 

The math doesn’t exactly add up, right? Because even if you wait 7 days after completing your antibiotic prescription, the BV-causing bacteria living on your partner’s penis can stay alive for another month or more. That’s why it’s so easy to fall into the cycle of recurrent BV. But it’s also an easy cycle to break if you know how to practice good sex hygiene. 

To prevent recurrent BV: 

  • Practice safe sex and use condoms
  • Clean and sterilize sex toys before engaging in any sexual activity (yes, every single time!) 
  • Wash your vaginal thoroughly with clean water after having sex
  • Go to the bathroom after having sex since urination can help flush out any unwanted bacteria from your vagina
  • Take a daily probiotic, particularly one that has the healthy bacteria Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is responsible for maintaining your overall vaginal pH, which can help kill any bad bacteria that gets reintroduced

What happens if you leave BV untreated?

We know that chronic and recurrent BV can be frustrating, especially if you feel like it is linked to a particular sexual partner. And if giving up that partner isn’t an option, you should just give up hope of ever treating the BV, right? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong!

You can break the cycle of recurrent BV, and more than that, it’s important you do. Leaving BV untreated has been linked to:

  • Increased risk of STIs
  • BV and STIs also increase your risk of getting HIV AIDS
  • Increased risk of developing post-surgical infections after an abortion or a hysterectomy
  • Fertility problems
  • Increased chances of miscarriage, preterm birth, and low birth weight of a newborn
  • Increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or the inflammation and infection of the ovaries, uterus, or fallopian tubes that can result in infertility

Your healthcare provider or gynecologist can be a great ally if you don’t know where to start. They will likely prescribe you a course of antibiotics like metronidazole, clindamycin, or tinidazole to help clear the active infection. While this prescription may be necessary, it won’t help prevent future infections. To do this, look to daily probiotics like Happy V’s Prebiotic + Probiotic. It is doctor-formulated to contain clinically proven strains of probiotics (like that healthy Lactobacillus we mentioned) at clinically effective doses to restore your vaginal flora and prevent future BV infections.