Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis, also called BV, is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age. This is when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disturbed and some bacteria grow in its place. The vagina usually contains mostly “good” bacteria and less “harmful” bacteria. BV develops when “harmful” bacteria and less “good” bacteria grow.

Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial Vaginosis

What causes BV?

The reason for BV is not understood. It can develop when something, such as sexual intercourse, disturbs the balance between the good bacteria that protect the vagina from infection and the harmful bacteria. It is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV, but BV is more common in women who have had vaginal sex. But BV is not always sexual. We know that certain things can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and put you at greater risk for BV:

  • Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
  • Douching
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
  • Not using a condom

We also know that you don’t get BV by touching toilet seats, beds, swimming pools, or things around you.

What are the signs of Bacterial vaginosis?

Women with BV may have an unusual vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor. Some women report a strong fishy odor, especially after sexual intercourse. The discharge may be white (milky) or gray and thin. Other symptoms may include burning sensation when urinating, itching around the outside of the vagina, and burning. However, it can also be a symptom of another infection. Some women with BV have no symptoms.

How can I find out if I have Bacterial vaginosis?

This is a test to find out if you have BV. Your doctor will take a sample of fluid from your vagina and test it. Your doctor may also look for symptoms of BV during a vaginal examination, such as gray matter.

How is Bacterial vaginosis treated?

BV is treated with antibiotics, which are medicines prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor may give you either metronidazole or clindamycin. Generally, male sexual partners of women with BV do not need treatment. You can still get BV after treatment.

Is it safe to treat pregnant women who have Bacterial vaginosis?

All pregnant women who have symptoms of BV or have had a premature birth or a low birth weight baby should have a BV test and if they have it should be treated. The same antibiotics used to treat non-pregnant women can be used safely during pregnancy. However, the amount of antibiotics a woman takes during pregnancy may differ from the amount taken if she is not pregnant.

Can Bacterial vaginosis cause medical problems?

In most cases, BV does not cause any discomfort. But if BV is not treated, there can be some problems.

  • Pregnancy problems. BV can cause premature delivery and low birth weight babies (less than five pounds).
  • PID. Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is an infection that can affect a woman’s uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, which carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Having BV increases the risk of getting PID after a surgical procedure, such as a hysterectomy or an abortion.
  • Higher risk of getting other STDs. Having BV can increase the chances of getting other STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Women with HIV who get BV to increase the chances of passing HIV to a sexual partner.

How can I prevent bacterial vaginosis?

Scientists do not understand BV well, and the best way to prevent it is unknown. What is known is that BV is associated with a new sexual partner or having more than one sexual partner. To reduce your risk of getting BV, follow these tips:

  • Don’t have sex. The best way to prevent any STD is to practice abstinence, or not having vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • Be faithful. Have a sexual relationship with one partner is another way to reduce your chances of getting infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
  • Use condoms. Protect yourself with a condom EVERY time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Condoms should be used for any type of sex with every partner. For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For anal sex, use a latex male condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam. A dental dam is a rubbery material that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before sexual contact.

Don’t douche

  • Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This may increase your chances of getting BV. It may also increase the chances of BV coming back after treatment.
  • Talk with your sex partner(s) about STDs and using condoms. It’s up to you to make sure you are protected.
  • Talk frankly with your doctor or nurse and your sex partner(s) about any STDs you or your partner have or had. Talk about any discharge in the genital area. Try not to be embarrassed.
  • Have regular pelvic exams. Talk with your doctor about how often you need them. Many tests for STDs can be done during an exam.
  • If you are pregnant and have symptoms of BV or had a premature delivery or low birth weight baby in the past, get tested for BV. Get tested as soon as you think you may be pregnant.
  • Finish your medicine. If you have BV, finish all the medicine that you are given to treat it. Even if the symptoms go away, you still need to finish all of the medicine.