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 certain types 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 own recent BV infections. How is that possible? Let’s dive into it.

Can you get BV from a male partner?

An infographic explaining the transmission of bacterial vaginosis (BV) with icons representing a male and a female figure and an arrow from the male to the female. The text states that men can carry BV-causing bacteria and pass it to female partners during sexual intercourse

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? 

An informative graphic with a calendar and clock icon asking, "How long can a man carry BV-causing bacteria?" Below, the text states men can carry the bacteria for up to two months after sex, potentially leading to recurring BV infections in a partner.

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. 

If you’re getting BV from sex, does that make BV a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

The image asks "Is BV a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?" with clarification that while linked to sexual activity, BV is not classified as an STI or STD, accompanied by illustrations of bacteria.

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)

If BV is not an STI, why do BV symptoms worsen after sex?

The image lists common BV symptoms noticed after sex: itching around the vagina, unusual discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, and an unpleasant fishy smell. Each symptom is represented by an icon: a vagina, a grey cloud, a flame, and a fish.

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: 

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Unpleasant fishy smell
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina
  • Burning sensation while urinating
Why do BV symptoms worsen after sex?" and explains that vaginal sex can introduce or reintroduce BV-causing bacteria to the vaginal microbiome, potentially exacerbating BV symptoms. The photo depicts a couple lying in bed, focusing on their feet, to illustrate the context of the question

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. 

If you have BV, can you give it to your male partner?

Can you give BV to your male partner?" It clarifies that while BV cannot be given to a male partner, the bacteria causing BV can be introduced to the partner and potentially be transferred back, with icons depicting a female and male figure and an arrow between them indicating the possible transmission

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. 

So… can you have sex with BV or not? 

statement on a background of crumpled bed sheets stating, "Having sex with an active BV infection can exacerbate your symptoms, which can make you more uncomfortable and prolong your current infection." This emphasizes the impact of sexual activity on bacterial vaginosis

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. 

But what if you’re getting treatment? Can you have sex while treating BV? 

Can you have sex while treating BV?" and suggests that it's best to abstain from sex during active BV infection treatment to prevent symptom exacerbation, depicted with an illustration of a neat, made-up bed.

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 to clear the infection entirely. 

Okay, so long do you have to wait for sex after BV treatment?  

The image provides advice on sexual activity post-BV treatment, suggesting a waiting period of at least 7 days after completing antibiotics, accompanied by a photo of a weekly pill organizer and prescription bottles

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 image offers tips to avoid recurring BV from a partner, suggesting safe sex with condoms, cleaning sex toys, washing after intercourse, urinating post-sex, and taking a probiotic with Lactobacillus. Icons for condoms, cleaning, water, urination, and probiotics accompany the tips.

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

Besides sex, what are other common risk factors of BV?

The image lists common risk factors for bacterial vaginosis (BV), including overuse of antibiotics, douching, improperly cleaned sex toys, use of vaginal soaps/powders/deodorants, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, use of IUDs, and poor genital hygiene, each with an accompanying icon.

At its core, BV is due to an imbalance in vaginal pH. Something disrupts your vaginal microbiome, affecting your healthy bacteria levels and making it easier for bad bacteria to grow. 

Sex, unprotected sex, and multiple or new sexual partners can all disrupt your vaginal pH, leading to BV, but there are other risk factors, too, including: 

1. Overuse of antibiotics

When you take antibiotics, you are killing not only the bad, infection-causing bacteria but all the good ones, too. Without good bacteria, you are more susceptible to vaginal infections like BV and vaginal yeast infections.

2. Douching

Douching is the process of flushing your vagina using water or other OTC cleansers. Though it’s seen as a way to clean your vagina, most doctors actually recommend against it. First, the vagina is self-cleaning (which is amazing, right?) But more than that, when you douche, you are disrupting your vaginal microbiome, which is probably why people who douche are more likely to get recurrent BV than those who don’t.

3. Improperly cleaned sex toys

Dirty sex toys can introduce unwanted bad bacteria into your vagina and increase the risk of BV. So wash any toys thoroughly before and after use. 

4. Vaginal soaps, powders, or deodorants

As good as these products might smell, the chemicals in them can throw off your vaginal pH and the overall balance of bacteria within your vagina, leading to BV and yeast infections. Swap fancy vaginal cleansers for warm water and mild, unscented soap. 

5. Pregnancy

We know, as if pregnancy wasn’t uncomfortable enough, right? Due to hormonal fluctuations and the weakened immune system associated with pregnancy, pregnant women are more likely to get BV. 

6. IUDs

If you use an intrauterine device or IUD for contraception, you can experience irregular bleeding patterns, which can alter your vaginal pH. This is why IUDs are associated with an increased risk of getting BV.

7. Poor genital hygiene

Little things like improper wiping techniques and failing to clean yourself after sex can have a big impact on your overall vaginal health, particularly when it comes to vaginal infections.

What happens if you leave BV untreated?

The image outlines the risks of untreated bacterial vaginosis (BV), such as post-surgical infections, pregnancy complications, PID, STIs, and fertility issues, alongside a cluster of bacteria illustrating the infection.

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. 

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) – 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), and if you follow the instructions exactly as prescribed and also incorporate a daily probiotic into your routine, we have confidence you will be feeling a lot better and fast!


Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stats.htm. Accessed on July 3, 2023.

Hesham, H., Mitchell, A. J., Bergerat, A., Hung, K., & Mitchell, C. M. (2021). Impact of vaginal douching products on vaginal Lactobacillus, Escherichia coli and epithelial immune responses. Scientific reports, 11(1), 23069. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-02426-5

Madden, T., Grentzer, J. M., Secura, G. M., Allsworth, J. E., & Peipert, J. F. (2012). Risk of bacterial vaginosis in users of the intrauterine device: a longitudinal study. Sexually transmitted diseases, 39(3), 217–222. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0b013e31823e68fe

Liu, C. M., Hungate, B. A., Tobian, A. A., Ravel, J., Prodger, J. L., Serwadda, D., Kigozi, G., Galiwango, R. M., Nalugoda, F., Keim, P., Wawer, M. J., Price, L. B., & Gray, R. H. (2015). Penile Microbiota and Female Partner Bacterial Vaginosis in Rakai, Uganda. mBio, 6(3), e00589. https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00589-15