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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common bacterial infection of the vagina. Home testing for BV can provide a person with important information about their vaginal health.

Quick links to at-home BV tests

BV occurs when there is a change in the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. Researchers do not fully understand the cause, but it frequently occurs in sexually active people, making it more likely for them to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

At-home tests allow a person to self-check for BV. Although the tests can provide a person with information about a possible infection, individuals should still see their doctor if they receive a positive result.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BV is the most common vaginal condition in people aged 15–44 years.

Despite being common in sexually active people, it is not an STI. Instead, a person may develop BV due to an imbalance of vaginal bacteria. The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) states that some common risk factors for BV include:

  • sex with a new partner
  • sex without condoms or dental dams
  • hormone changes due to pregnancy
  • douching
  • use of an intrauterine device (IUD)

Symptoms may be mild or not present at all. If they do occur, the CDC notes that a person may experience some or all of the following:

  • burning, pain, or itchiness in the vagina
  • thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • itchiness around the outside of the vagina
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • strong fishy odor, particularly following sexual intercourse

The symptoms of BV are similar to those of other conditions that affect the vagina, so if an individual is concerned, they should contact their doctor for further advice.

Due to their ease of use and availability, a person can test for BV at home before making an appointment with a doctor.

Many at-home tests provide specific instructions on when to test for BV, but most people will test if they notice symptoms. Other reasons to test may include:

  • for peace of mind
  • if they’re pregnant
  • if they have a new sexual partner(s)
  • after sex without a barrier method

Research has shown that most women perform self-tests correctly and that results from home tests are reasonably accurate. To determine whether a person has BV, at-home tests may check the pH level of the vagina. The pH level is one of four criteria that doctors use to confirm a diagnosis. The other three are:

  • fishy odor
  • presence of “clue” cells, which are cells collected from the vaginal wall that show a coating of bacteria
  • white discharge

After using a home test and returning a positive result, a person should talk with their doctor, who will diagnose and treat the BV.

Here we look at some specific tests that an individual may use to check for BV.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based.

BV Home Test from myLAB Box

The company will mail a BV testing kit to a person’s home in a discreet package. Once it arrives, they follow the instructions to perform the test and then return it to the lab.

According to the myLAB Box website, the kit includes:

  • a test that takes fewer than 5 minutes
  • lab results within 2–5 days
  • no pain during the test
  • free shipping
  • consultation with a doctor for those with positive results

An individual can use their health savings account (HSA) toward the cost of the test.

Vaginosis Profile – Doctor’s Data Test Kit from Walk-In Lab

Walk-In Lab offers a vaginosis profile kit that can help distinguish between vaginosis and a yeast infection.

Once a person selects and orders the kit, the company will send the kit directly to a person’s home.

Once completed, an individual can send the sample back to the company for testing. However, the company explicitly states not to collect a sample or send the kit back on a Friday.

Once a person sends back their specimen, it will take 6–8 days to receive results.

Vaginal Health Test from FloriSense

The vaginal health test from FloriSense gives results in about 10 seconds. It tests the pH in a person’s vagina to identify whether there is an infection.

The company advises that if the swab changes color, it will indicate trichomoniasis (trich) or BV. If the test detects either of these, an individual should contact their doctor for confirmation and treatment.

If there is no color change to the swab but a person is experiencing symptoms, this could indicate a yeast infection, which a person can treat with over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

The box contains two swabs and a complete instruction and information insert.

Instead of testing at home, a person could visit their doctor if they notice symptoms of BV. Their doctor will likely perform a physical examination and run some lab tests.

Also, a person should contact their doctor if they have positive results from a home BV test. A doctor can then confirm a diagnosis and provide treatment. The CDC notes that typical treatment for BV involves antibiotics.

The CDC also warns that BV can come back following treatment. If a person notices recurring symptoms despite the initial treatment, they should speak with their doctor for further evaluation.

BV can affect the overall health of the vagina and increase a person’s risk of developing other vaginal infections. The CDC also advises that a person’s risk of the following conditions increases with untreated BV:

  • contracting or transmitting HIV
  • chlamydia or gonorrhea
  • if pregnant, premature delivery

The OWH offers the following advice to lower a person’s risk of developing BV:

  • using warm water only on the outside of the vagina, avoiding soaps
  • avoiding sexual activity
  • avoiding douching
  • using condoms or dental dams during sex

BV causes itchiness, pain, and abnormal discharge in the vagina. The bacterial infection can cause a person to be more likely to contract other infections, such as common STIs.

A person can test for BV using a home testing kit, which they can often purchase online or at a local pharmacy. Individuals should speak with their doctor if they receive a positive result from any at-home test.