The female reproductive system is delicate and requires care and attention. Due to lack of proper care, many problems can arise in the reproductive system that may be challenging to notice, leading to a prolonged treatment period. However, if one is aware of the signs and symptoms of common diseases, infections, and problems in the vagina, it can save one a lot of time.
One of the most prevalent infections found in the vagina is known as bacterial vaginosis. So, what is it, and how do you identify it?
What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common vaginal infections found in women and is directly caused by bacteria. More specifically, the leading cause is the abnormal vaginal discharge that occurs in reproductive-age women (women who have not gone through menopause yet).
If you have ever heard of people having a 'fish' smell coming from the vagina, they had bacterial vaginosis. It can even cause vaginal irritation in some cases. However, in most cases, there are barely any symptoms.
As a matter of fact, bacterial vaginosis is often associated with poor obstetrics and gynecologic outcomes such as preterm deliveries and infections post-surgeries like hysterectomy and has a high possibility of making a woman more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, more specifically HIV.
Is Bacterial Vaginosis Common (BV)?
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal problem for women ranging from ages 15 to 44. According to research, an estimated one in three women are bound to get BV. However, the rate is significantly higher in black women.
Who Can Get Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Simply put, anyone who has a vagina can get bacterial vaginosis (BV), even if they have not had sexual intercourse –though that is rare. In most cases, it usually occurs in sexually active people. Keep in mind that you may have a higher risk of getting bacterial vaginosis if you:
- Are pregnant
- Do not use condoms during sexual intercourse
- Do not use dental dams
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Are in a polyamorous relationship or have multiple sex partners
- Have a new sex partner who did not get tested before having intercourse with you
- Have a female sex partner or someone with a vagina
- Regularly use douches
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
As mentioned before, more than 84% of people with bacterial vaginosis (BV) do not experience any type of symptoms. But, if one does, they may experience the following:
- Vaginal discharge (fluid) of off-white, grey or greenish colour
- Vaginal discharge that resembles the smell of "fish."
- The "fishy" smell is the strongest after sexual intercourse or during the menstrual cycle
- An itchy or sore vagina (this is a very rare occurrence).
One of the main reasons bacterial vaginosis is commonly underdiagnosed is because the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are quite similar to other infections. Due to this, it is important to visit your healthcare provider regularly for tests and to determine if you have bacterial vaginosis or some other vaginal infection.
What are the Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Naturally, a vagina hosts multiple types of bacteria – often referred to as the microbiome. It is somewhat similar to what your digestive symptom hosts. But, the infection we know as bacterial vaginosis occurs when some of the vaginal bacteria (also known as the 'bad' bacteria) grow way too quickly as compared to the other bacteria present in the vagina. This abundance of one type of bacteria results in an imbalance in the vagina.
Is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) a Type of STD?
Bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease, however, it is directly linked with sexual activity and sexual intercourse. This is because many researchers believe that sex contributes to the change in the bacterial environment found in the vagina. This explains bacterial overgrowth. However, there is not enough evidence to support these claims.
Can Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Go Away on its Own?
In some cases, bacterial vaginosis can clear up on its own without any medical attention or medications. However, keep in mind that the possibility of having bacterial vaginosis implies that you could have a serious infection one way or another. Particularly, if you have symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor. This is because untreated bacterial vaginosis can lead to complications related to the vagina. For instance, a person becomes much more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. It can even affect pregnancy and childbirth.
What are the Treatment Options for Bacterial Vaginosis?
You will be happy to hear that bacterial vaginosis is easy to treat and is often resolved in a few days with the help of medication. There are certainly no complications when it comes to the treatment. Initially, your primary physician will prescribe antibiotics – which are typically either metronidazole or clindamycin. These medications come in the form of a gel or a cream that you can insert directly into your vagina. You can also take the medication orally since they come in pill form too.
The Bottom Line
Bacterial vaginosis is not a serious health problem, but if left untreated, it can lead to results that can cause complications. Therefore, it is essential to have regular checkups and get pap smears every 6 months to ensure everything meets the standard.