Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment

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Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition in women caused by bacteria. It is treated with antibiotics which come in tablet form and a topical cream or a gel. Simply fill in an online bacterial vaginosis consultation online and request yo

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What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common bacterial infection experienced by women. It is caused by an imbalance of the natural, healthy bacteria which reside in the vaginal region. Lactobacilli is a bacteria which resides in the vagina and produces lactic acid, maintaining an acidic environment to prevent the growth of other bacteria. When other bacteria, most commonly gardnerella vaginalis, enter the vagina, they can reduce the number of lactobacilli and allow other bacteria to grow, resulting in the symptoms of BV.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vaginal region. It is usually provoked when a bacteria called gardnerella vaginalis enters the vagina and reduces the number of lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria which keep the vagina acidic and inhospitable to foreign bacteria. This can allow other bacteria to grow, resulting in BV.

How to deal with bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is usually harmless and often has no symptoms. However, it can be recurrent, and there are some steps you can take to prevent it from coming back. Maintaining good hygiene is important, but be aware that the vaginal region is naturally designed to clean itself. Marketed products such as scented sanitary towels, tampons and soaps will only increase the risk of infection in the area. Choose mild and unperfumed soaps to clean the genital area. Avoid vaginal douching at all costs; it is wholly unnecessary and known to provoke a bacterial imbalance. If you have BV, it is best to avoid having sex until you know that the infection has passed. Practicing safe and healthy sex and using a condom can greatly reduce the risk of developing BV. Finally, increasing your intake of healthy probiotics such as yoghurt and kefir can help to prevent BV from occuring by encouraging a healthy environment for the growth of lactobacilli in the vagina.

What are the complications of bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis can cause complications in pregnant women, causing frequent UTIs and increasing the risk of miscarriage or early delivery. If you are pregnant and think you may have BV, it is vital that you consult a doctor immediately.

Will bacterial vaginosis go away on its own?

In many cases, bacterial vaginosis goes away on its own. In fact, it often has no symptoms and goes unnoticed. However, it can be recurrent and develop again within 3 months. If you are experiencing BV regularly, it is best to seek treatment to prevent future infection.

Symptoms

Bacterial vaginosis symptoms

Bacterial vaginosis often presents no symptoms and can go unnoticed. The most common symptom is a change in the vaginal discharge, which can develop an unpleasant, fishy odour, particularly following sex. Discharge may become white or grey or thin and watery. BV does not usually cause soreness or itching, but some women may experience a burning sensation while urinating.

How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?

A doctor will begin by asking you about your symptoms. To rule out the possibility that you have an STI, they may wish to look at your vagina and take a swab to test the pH level. A healthy vagina has an acidic pH ranging between 3.8 and 4.2, and a pH higher than 4.5 is indicative of BV. Alternatively, a vaginal swab may be checked for the presence of clue cells, which are coated with bacteria that are visible under a microscope when treated with sodium chloride. Potassium hydroxide may be added to the swab to check the odor or the discharge, which helps identify BV.

What increases your risk of getting bacterial vaginosis?

The direct cause of bacterial vaginosis is uncertain, but it can be triggered by a number of causes. The known contributors to BV include:

  • Vaginal douching
  • Sex with a new partner or with multiple partners
  • Unprotected sex
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD), also known as the coil, as contraception
  • Using perfumed soaps or sanitary products around the genital area
  • Using strongly perfumed detergents to wash your underwear
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle

How to tell if you have bacterial vaginosis or an STI

Because the most common symptom of bacterial vaginosis is a change in vaginal discharge, it can be easily confused with chlamydia, gonorrhea or herpes. If you notice a change in your discharge and have had unprotected sex since your last sexual health test, it is definitely worth being checked for STIs to rule them out.

Treatment

How to prevent bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis can be recurrent, and there are some steps you can take to avoid it:

  • Remember that the vaginal region is designed to clean itself. All you need to do is wash around the area with mild, unperfumed soaps. Strongly perfumed soaps and marketed products such as scented pads and tampons will only increase the risk of irritation or infection. Avoid vaginal douching completely, as it is known to cause bacterial imbalance in the area.
  • Practicing safe and healthy sex is key to avoiding BV. Use a condom at all times and limit your number of sexual partners. If you think you might have BV, it is best to avoid having sex for a while.
  • Eating healthy probiotics, such as yoghurt and kefir, can help prevent BV from occurring. These probiotics encourage a healthy environment for the growth of lactobacilli in the vagina.

How is bacterial vaginosis treated?

While bacterial vaginosis often clears up on its own, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent it from recurring. These are taken orally, or applied to the inside the the vagina as a topical gel or cream. The most common antibiotics prescribed for BV are Clindamycin, Metronidazole and Tinidazole.

What you can do about recurring bacterial vaginosis

It is common for bacterial vaginosis to recur, usually within 3 months. As well as taking measures to avoid upsetting the balance of bacteria in the vagina, your doctor may advise taking antibiotic treatment for longer if you continue to experience BV. Treatment can be taken for up to 6 months to prevent the infection from returning. 

Side Effects

What are the risks of bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis itself is generally harmless and often clears up on its own. However, it can have more serious complications in pregnant women, causing them to suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) and increasing the risk of miscarriage or early delivery. BV can also be harmful if it occurs in combination with a sexually transmitted disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of BV, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

How to mask the smell of bacterial vaginosis

The unpleasant, fishy odour that is sometimes accompanies BV is caused by discharge. This means that the best way to get rid of the smell is to treat BV so that your discharge returns to its normal state. If you notice changes to your discharge, consult a doctor to find out if you have BV and how to treat it.

Risks of bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy

Bacterial vaginosis can be harmful to women during pregnancy, so you are advised to consult a doctor immediately if you notice symptoms. BV can result in recurrent UTIs and increase the risk of miscarriage or early delivery.

Q&A

Is bacterial vaginosis an STI?

Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI and can occur in women who are not sexually active, but sexual activity does increase the risk of a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. Since unusual discharge is often the only symptom of BV, it can be confused with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes. If you have had unprotected sex since your last sexual health test, it is important to get checked for STIs if you are experiencing symptoms of BV.

It is extremely rare for BV to be passed from women to men, as the male reproductive system does not have an environment that encourages the growth of BV-causing bacteria. However, it is possible for BV to be passed between women, and both partners will need to be checked for the infection if it is experienced by one. 

Can you have sex if you have bacterial vaginosis?

It is possible to have sex if you have bacterial vaginosis, but you are advised not to. Sex can further disrupt the bacterial imbalance and prevent it from clearing up naturally. Women should avoid having sex with female partners when they have BV, as the infection can be passed between the two.

Why does bacterial vaginosis smell?

Bacterial vaginosis can cause vaginal discharge to have a foul-smelling, fishy odour. This is because the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina can be odorous. 

Can antibiotics cause bacterial vaginosis?

A course of antibiotics can sometimes result in thrush, upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. However antibiotics are not a known cause of bacterial vaginosis.

Can bacterial vaginosis spread?

It is extremely rare for men to experience bacterial vaginosis, but it can be passed between women during sex. If you have BV, any female sexual partners you have had will also need to be checked for the infection.

Is bacterial vaginosis dangerous?

Bacterial vaginosis usually harmless. However, it can be dangerous when experienced by pregnant women, often causing UTIs and increasing the risk of miscarriage or early delivery.

Can bacterial vaginosis cause miscarriage?

In women who are pregnant, bacterial vaginosis can increase the risk of miscarriage. If you are pregnant and think you might have BV, you should consult a doctor immediately. 

Can bacterial vaginosis cause infertility?

If left untreated, there is a small risk that bacterial vaginosis can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease can damage your reproductive system, leading to infertility. It is always best to see a doctor if you think you might have BV.

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I moved 150 miles from my GP (to uni) and was unable to go home or visit a walk in for another 2 days due to being at work (12.5 hour shifts). I filled out a quick form - and 1.5 days later I had my antibiotics delivered to my door and I am on the mend. 10/10.

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