Bacterial vaginosis or BV is caused by an imbalance of the normal bacteria in the vagina. BV does not usually cause any vaginal soreness or itching but it often causes unusual vaginal discharge and odour.
Normally, there is a delicate balance between different bacterial species that live naturally within the vagina. Your vagina is normally acidic, which helps prevent bad bacteria from growing and maintains the level of good bacteria called lactobacillus. If the pH balance becomes less acidic this can result in an overgrowth of anaerobic organisms replacing normal lactobacilli which then results in BV. Various factors can affect the pH balance of your vagina, including getting your period, taking antibiotics, over-washing, using an IUD (intrauterine device) and semen if you have sex without a condom.
Who Gets BV?
BV is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15 to 44 But women of any age can get it, even if they have never had sex.
You may be more at risk for BV if you:
- Have a new sex partner
- Have multiple sex partners
- Use a vaginal douche
- Do not use condoms
- Are pregnant
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD), especially if you also have irregular bleeding
Symptoms of BV
Many women have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Unusual vaginal discharge. The discharge can be white (milky) or gray. It may also be foamy or watery. Some women report a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex
- Burning when urinating
- Itching around the outside of the vagina
- Vaginal irritation
These symptoms may be similar to vaginal yeast infections and other health problems. Only your doctor or nurse can tell you for sure whether you have BV.
Risks Associated With BV
If BV is untreated, possible problems may include:
- Higher risk of getting STIs, including HIV. Having BV can raise your risk of getting HIV, genital herpes, chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, and gonorrhea. Women with HIV who get BV are also more likely to pass HIV to a male sexual partner
- Pregnancy problems. BV can lead to premature birth or a low-birth-weight baby (smaller than 5 1/2 pounds at birth). All pregnant women with symptoms of BV should be tested and treated if they have it
BV is easy to treat. If you think you have BV:
- See a doctor or nurse. Antibiotics will treat BV.
- Take all of your medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to complete the course of antibiotics.
- Tell your sex partner(s) if she is female so she can be treated.
- Avoid sexual contact until you finish your treatment.
- See your doctor or nurse again if you have symptoms that don’t go away within a few days after finishing the antibiotic.
Pregnancy and BV
About 1 in 4 pregnant women get BV. The risk for BV is higher for pregnant women because of the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and you have BV visit your doctor to discuss how to manage it.
It’s best to get checked out as BV can cause complications such as
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Increased risk of premature labour
Top tips for preventing BV infections
- Avoid using deodorants or perfumed products in and around your vaginal area
- Avoid over-washing
- Avoid using strong detergent to wash your underwear
- Change your tampons or pads frequently
- Ensure you wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
- Dry your vaginal area after washing, swimming & working out
- Change your underwear after swimming & working out
How Haven Pharmacy Can Help
Haven pharmacists are committed to providing expert care, made personal for our customers. All our pharmacies have consultation rooms where you can explain possible symptoms to our pharmacists in private. You will be provided with clear, professional advice in a warm and reassuring environment.