How to treat a male sexual partner for BV

Men carry bacterial vaginosis (BV) bacteria and biofilms on and in their penis and urethra, and are passing it around to their female sexual partners – this is why ‘a new sexual partner’ is one of the main triggers for BV.

If you or your male sexual partner are unconvinced that he has the bacteria and biofilm, check out Killing BV: Penis Treatment Guide. It explains the situations whereby a male sexual partner or partner with a penis can both transmit and receive BV or aerobic vaginitis (AV) bacteria that sticks around long enough to be transmitted.

If you are a man who has been in contact with a BV vagina, we recommend that you read this book and follow the treatment plan if you suspect you have inherited the issue.

About BV and Gardnerella vaginalis infections in men

There is some evidence to show that without direct physical repeated skin-on-skin contact with a BV-infected vagina, a male sexual partner’s G. vaginalis infection in the urethra and on the penis will disappear by itself. Most of the time.

Meaning, if a man has unprotectected sex with a woman who has BV one time, it’s unlikely the problem will stick around. If a man has regular unprotected sex with a woman with BV, it’s more likely the problem will embed itself in the male reproductive tract and be able to be passed on to other women via unprotected sex. This is a problem.

Additionally, if a man stops having unprotected sex with the woman with BV, after 1-2 months, his normal healthy penile microbiome may be restored, but it may not be – this is where the second problem lies. This man can then spread the BV to new vaginas.

Evidence suggests that the bacteria will continue to live in the urethra and on the penis so long as he is exposed to it. This is largely good news for the male partners of women with BV, because with the use of condoms, the colonisation with BV bacteria goes away by itself most of the time.

Most of the time – but not all the time. Some men will retain the BV bacteria and need treatment. Unfortunately at the moment there is no way of knowing if you or your partner are continuing to transmit the bacteria and biofilms.

If you have used (and will continue to use) condoms religiously, treatment will not be necessary.

Men should know that there is a very high chance that they have BV-related bacteria in their urethra and on their penises, especially if they are uncircumcised.

It’s important to use condoms with all sex partners when BV is a risk, to stop the spread of the disrupted microbiome, via biofilm seed bacteria. Any man with a foreskin is far more susceptible to these biofilms and colonisation with BV and AV-causing bacterial colonies.

Why not just use antibiotics?

Men may be prescribed antibiotics if their female sex partner gets a BV diagnosis, but this is a stab in the dark – men aren’t tested for G. vaginalis and therefore there is no way of knowing – or effectively using – antibiotics. Some of the bacteria and bacterial biofilms in BV-related bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.

Treating men can be done in a few ways, but because men are not tested, removing the biofilm from the penis is very much an at-home operation, much like all biofilm eradication methods for BV. There is so little research into BV bacteria in men that nobody except My Vagina has yet offered up any sort of effective treatment, bar antibiotics which are still not routine for men. And, also, don’t work.

Once a woman treats herself (Killing BV for vaginas) – and has been three months without a flare-up or unprotected sex – her male partner is likely to be free from BV-related bacteria without any treatment.

Condoms are necessary in the short-term to prevent reinfection (the three months until the woman is clear) and steps can be taken to help reduce any lingering penile biofilms. My Vagina practitioners suggest men are treated too, however, because when it comes to BV, safe is better than recurrent BV.

Antibiotics do not work in most men, for the same reasons they don’t work in over half of women. If your doctor suggests taking antibiotics for male sexual partners, try the Killing BV men’s treatment instead. Read more about the research into antibiotic treatments for male partners of women with BV.

After successfully treating BV, the female vaginal microflora should be strong after three months, but it is advisable to be cautious and don’t go too gung-ho with the semen – and the penis – until it is clear the BV won’t be returning.

Key facts on BV in men:

  • Condoms or other sexual protection stops the spread and reinfection of BV between all sexual partners, male or female
  • Men’s G. vaginalis infection seems to most often disappear without continued contact with a BV vagina, but the time it takes to go away is not known and we do not recommend taking this risk, especially if you have a foreskin
  • Men can spread different biotypes of G. vaginalis to different women, infecting them (BV is sexually transmitted)
  • A man can be effectively treated using our men’s treatment

Treatment strategies for BV in men

Our treatment strategy – Killing BV: Penis Treatment Guide – is a direct penis treatment with biofilm-busting treatments to attack the problem from multiple angles.

All our books come with free email support for men, and our exclusive support section providing access to treatment strategies for men in conjunction with our treatments for women. Men have their own support section.

Treatment strategies for single/poly men who have been in contact with BV vaginas

If you are a man who is in sexual contact with women who are being treated for BV (or who you suspect have BV), we recommend you read the penis treatment guide so you understand the problem and how you are contributing to the spread of bacterial vaginosis. We walk you through how to understand the problem and resolve it.

We also recommend that you talk to your female sexual partners about BV, because women don’t understand it either, and may be struggling with it. Run it past them, and send them to My Vagina or send them a copy of Killing BV: Vagina Treatment Guide and work on it as team.  

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)