What Is Bacterial Vaginosis and How to Prevent/Treat
Bacterial vaginosis results from overgrowth of one of several bacteria naturally found in your vagina. Usually, "good" bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber "bad" bacteria (anaerobes). But if there are too many anaerobic bacteria, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina and cause bacterial vaginosis.
If left untreated, it can raise your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cause problems during pregnancy. This may be because BV makes your vagina less acidic and reduces your natural defences against infection.
Who Gets BV?
BV is the most common vaginal condition in women ages 15 to 44. But women of any age can get it, even if they have never had sex. 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.
You may be more at risk for BV if you:
- Have a new sex partner
- Have multiple sex partners
- Douche/use certain feminine hygiene products
- Use a perfumed bubble bath
- Use some scented soaps
- Bathe in water that contains antiseptic liquids
- Wash underwear with a strong detergent
- Do not use condoms or dental dams
- Recently have used antibiotics
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD), especially if you also have irregular bleeding
A person cannot acquire BV from:
- toilet seats
- swimming pools
What Are the Symptoms of BV?
About 50–75% of females with BV have no symptoms. If these occur, they typically involve changes to vaginal discharge, such as an increased amount. There may also be a burning sensation or itchiness in the vaginal area. A person may also have a burning sensation during urination and itching around the outside of the vagina, though this is less common.
In someone with BV, vaginal discharge may have:
- a watery, thin consistency
- a grey or white colour
- a strong, unpleasant smell, often described as fishy
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.
What Is the Difference Between BV and a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Both these forms of vaginitis are typically accompanied by vaginal itching, burning sensations and discomfort, with a few key differences in symptoms. There is one typical, major difference between symptoms of a yeast infection vs BV: discharge colour. Beyond that, the other key difference is the odour.
With BV, your discharge may be thin yellow, white, grey or even greenish but may also have a fishy smell. Discharge from a yeast infection may also be white or grey but may look thick and clumpy like cottage cheese. There also tends to be redness/swelling around the vaginal opening and/or vulva during a yeast infection.
How Is BV Treated?
BV is treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
If you get BV, your male sex partner won't need to be treated. But, if you are female and have a female sex partner, she might also have BV. If your current partner is female, she needs to see her doctor. She may also need treatment.
It is also possible to get recurring BV. BV and vaginal yeast infections are treated differently. BV is treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. But you cannot treat BV with over-the-counter yeast infection medicine.
What Should I Do if I Have BV?
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 finish all of the 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.
How Can I Lower My Risk of BV?
Researchers do not know exactly how BV spreads. Steps that might lower your risk of BV include:
- Keeping your vaginal bacteria balanced. Using pH balanced and prebiotic enriched lubricants like Oomf. The organic hemp extract and prebiotic enriched formula, will help maintain the healthy microflora and keep any infections at bay. These prebiotic strains help maintain vaginal balance by sticking to vaginal surfaces and making it more challenging for harmful bacteria to grow.
- Maintaining a healthy vaginal pH. Many believe a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help you maintain a healthy vaginal pH. There are also some other simple steps you can take to keep your pH in check and support a healthy vagina.
- Quality hygiene is key. Use warm water only to clean the outside of your vagina. You do not need to use soap. Even mild soap can irritate your vagina. Always wipe front to back from your vagina to your anus. Keep the area cool by wearing cotton or cotton-lined underpants.
- Not douching. Douching upsets the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your vagina. This may raise your risk of BV. It may also make it easier to get BV again after treatment. Doctors do not recommend douching.
- Limiting your number of sex partners. Researchers think that your risk of getting BV goes up with the number of partners you have.