Bacterial Vaginosis

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Although it is unknown what exactly causes bacterial vaginosis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list bacterial vaginosis as a sexually transmitted disease. The healthy vagina is normally home to many kinds of bacteria.

Sometimes the balance of bacteria changes so that too much of certain bacteria cause bacterial vaginosis. Having sex or douching can change the bacterial environment of the vagina. Women of all ages can get bacterial vaginosis but usually young girls before puberty do not get it. Male sex partners of affected women are safe but female lovers can get bacterial vaginosis from their infected partners.

What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Symptoms vary from being mildly annoying to severely painful.

Symptoms include:

The vagina exudes a thin white, green or grayish discharge that often has an unpleasant rotten fish odor. This discharge is often accompanied by pain in the pelvic region, burning sensation when urinating or trying to urinate and vaginal itching.

Since these symptoms are also similar to many gynecological ailments, it is important to see a doctor or gynecologist for an accurate diagnosis. If the woman also has a fever along with bacterial vaginosis symptoms, then she may have a serious infection that needs prompt medical treatment.  However, it is possible for a woman to have bacterial vaginosis and have absolutely no symptoms.

Bacterial Vaginosis Causes

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is caused by an overgrowth of one type of bacteria naturally found in the vagina. The good bacteria (lactobacilli) will typically outnumber the bad bacteria (anaerobes). However, in the case of bacterial Vaginosis, the bad outweighs the good, causing a bacterial infection. You can get BV with or without having sexual intercourse.

Certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting BV, some of which include douching, having multiple sexual partners (or a new sexual partner), or having a natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria. Many women believe douching helps to keep their vagina clean, but it actually changes your vagina’s natural PH balance, which can lead to anaerobic bacterial growth. Avoid douching at all costs because your body cleans your vagina every month when you have a menstrual cycle. A natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria (the good bacteria) also leads to BV.

How is Bacterial Vaginosis Treated?

Occasionally symptoms of bacterial vaginosis disappear on their own. Just why this happens is unknown.

Treatment includes:

Bacterial vaginosis symptoms can be eliminated with pills like tinidazole and medicated creams like clindamycin. Take all pills or cream prescribed even when symptoms disappear. It can come back in as little as three months. Another outbreak is common. Women with chronic bacterial vaginosis may have to take medication like metronidazole every day to help control outbreaks.

WARNING: No alcoholic beverages should be consumed on days when taking tinidazole or severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting will result.

Clindamycin creams can break condoms, so refrain from sexual intercourse with men using condoms during treatment.

Bacterial Vaginosis Prevention

Bacterial Vaginosis can be prevented by practicing safe sex, avoiding douching, and keeping your vaginal bacteria balanced. It’s best to practice safe sex by being monogamous, limiting your sexual partners, getting tested frequently (especially if you do have multiple partners), and using condoms. Monogamy automatically lowers your risk because the higher your number of sexual partners, the higher your risk of BV. Before you have sexual intercourse with anyone, be sure they’ve been tested for any STIs. Finally, using condoms is the best way to prevent BV.

Avoiding using alcohol or drugs can also lower your risk because they’ve been linked to risky sexual behavior.

If your partner is the one with BV, take measures to protect yourself. You can use a dental dam during oral sex and cover any sex toys you might use with a condom before using it. Avoid sharing toys before replacing the condom with a new one. You can also avoid oral sex altogether to significantly lower your risk of getting BV.

Keep your vaginal area clean using only warm water (no soap necessary). Soap usually irritates the vagina, so refrain from using it.