The most common vaginal infections usually are due to an overgrowth of organisms normally present in the vagina. They may or may not be sexually transmitted. These infections include candidiasis (also called yeast infection or thrush) and bacterial vaginosis. Candidiasis is not usually sexually transmitted. Recent research links bacterial vaginosis with sexual behavior, but even women who have never had sex can, rarely, develop bacterial vaginosis.

  • In most areas these infections are much more common than STIs. Researchers estimate that between 5% and 25% of women have bacterial vaginosis and between 5% and 15% have candidiasis at any given time.
  • Vaginal discharge due to these infections may be similar to discharge caused by some STIs such as trichomoniasis. It is important to reassure clients with such symptoms that they may not have an STI—particularly if they have no other symptoms and are at low risk for STIs.
  • Bacterial vaginosis can be cured with antibiotics; candidiasis can be cured with anti-fungal medications such as fluconazole. Without treatment, bacterial vaginosis can lead to pregnancy complications, and candidiasis can be transmitted to a newborn during delivery.

Washing the external genital area with unscented soap and clean water, and not using douches, detergents, disinfectants, or vaginal cleaning or drying agents are good hygiene practices. They may also help some women avoid vaginal infections.