Have you ever heard of Bacterial vaginosis or BV?
It is a type of vaginal inflammation that happens due to the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina.
So, before we move further, you should know that there are certain healthy bacteria in your vagina which if get out of balance, can grow too much which can lead to more issues. BV is often caused by Gardnerella vaginalis, the most common type of bacteria found in your vagina.
Anything that affects the chemistry of your vagina’s pH balance can mess with bacteria levels and this can lead to yeast infection. The cause isn’t completely understood, but certain activities, such as unprotected sex or frequent douching, increase your risks.
Am I Prone to Getting BV?
Women in their reproductive years are most likely to get bacterial vaginosis, but it can affect women of any age group. Also, it most likely to affect women between the ages of 15 and 44 years.
It is frequently seen developing after sexual intercourse with a new partner or having multiple sexual partners. The risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases increases considerably for women having bacterial vaginosis however, BV in itself is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Now let’s look into the symptoms of this condition
Symptoms of BV
Did you know that in about 50% of cases, women experiencing bacterial vaginosis exhibit no symptoms? However, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Fishy smell from around the vagina that gets stronger after sex
- Thin white, gray, or green discharge
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, if present, can occur at any time during the menstrual cycle, including before, during, or after the menstrual period.
The amount of vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman. Therefore, any degree of vaginal discharge that is abnormal for a particular woman should be put under scrutiny.
However, there are some complications that can arise. Have a look:
Complications of BV
Complications that have been related to Bacterial Vaginosis include a higher risk of:
- HIV infection, as Bacterial Vaginosis increases susceptibility to the virus.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases, such as the herpes simplex virus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and human papillomavirus (HPV)
- post-surgical infection, for example, after a termination or a hysterectomy
Possible complications of BV during pregnancy include:
- early, or preterm, delivery
- loss of pregnancy
- the amniotic sac breaking open too early
- postpartum endometritis, an irritation or inflammation of the lining of the uterus after delivery
- tubal factor infertility, caused by damage to the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus
- chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the fetus, known as the chorion and the amnion
- BV also increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection and inflammation of the upper female genital tract that can have severe consequences, including infertility.
But what causes bacterial vaginosis?
Let’s look into the major factors:
BV is caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacterial flora, the usual bacteria found in a woman’s vagina. Why this happens is not clear. We will now talk about the significant role of bacteria:
The Role of Bacteria
All parts of the body have bacteria; where some are beneficial others are harmful. When there are too many harmful bacteria, problems can arise.
The vagina contains mostly “good” bacteria and some harmful bacteria. BV occurs when harmful bacteria grow in numbers.
A vagina should contain certain essential bacteria called lactobacilli. These bacteria produce lactic acid, making the vagina slightly acidic. This prevents the growth of other harmful bacteria inside the vagina.
Lower levels of lactobacilli may cause the vagina to become less acidic. If the vagina is not as acidic as it should be, this can give other bacteria the chance to grow and thrive. However, exactly how these harmful bacteria are linked with BV is not known.
Risk Factors of BV:
Any woman can develop BV, but some behaviors or activities can increase the risk. Let’s look into some of the major ones:
- Having multiple sex partners or a new sex partner. Doctors don’t fully understand the link between sexual activity and bacterial vaginosis, but the condition occurs more often in women who have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner. Bacterial vaginosis also occurs more frequently in women who have sex with women.
- The practice of rinsing out your vagina with water or a cleansing agent (douching) upsets the natural balance of your vagina. This can lead to an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, and cause BV. Since the vagina is self-cleaning, douching isn’t necessary.
- Natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria. If your natural vaginal environment doesn’t produce enough of the good lactobacilli bacteria, you’re more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.
- Having a bath with antiseptic liquids
- using perfumed bubble baths, vaginal deodorants, and some scented soaps
- Washing underwear with strong detergents
Complications of BV
Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t generally cause complications. Sometimes, having bacterial vaginosis may lead to:
- Preterm birth. In pregnant women, bacterial vaginosis is linked to premature deliveries and low birth weight babies.
- Sexually transmitted infections. What are STDs? Having bacterial vaginosis makes women more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, herpes simplex virus, chlamydia, or gonorrhea. If you have HIV, bacterial vaginosis increases the odds that you’ll pass the virus on to your partner.
- Infection risk after gynecologic surgery. Having bacterial vaginosis may increase the risk of developing a post-surgical infection after procedures such as hysterectomy or dilation and curettage (D&C).
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Bacterial vaginosis can sometimes cause PID, an infection of the uterus, and the fallopian tubes that can increase the risk of infertility.
It is important to know that BV cannot be caught from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or touching objects.
Prevention of BV
To help prevent bacterial vaginosis:
- Minimize synthetic products likely to irritate- Use mild, nondeodorant soaps and unscented tampons or pads.
- Do not douche. Your vagina doesn’t require cleansing other than normal bathing. Frequent douching disrupts the vaginal balance and may increase your risk of vaginal infection. Douching won’t clear up a vaginal infection. But would rather wash away healthy bacteria creating imbalance and giving way for unhealthy bacteria to grow.
- Avoid a sexually transmitted infection. Use a non-flavored latex condom during intercourse, limit your number of sex partners or abstain from intercourse to minimize your risk of a sexually transmitted infection.
Now let’s talk about the diagnosis of the condition:
Diagnosis of BV
While there are some goods that Bacterial vaginosis often doesn’t require that you get treatment, however women with visible signs and symptoms should seek treatment to avoid further complications.
So know this- there is no treatment needed if there are no symptoms. Sometimes one can even experience BV and BV-like symptoms for no apparent, underlying reason.
If there is an abnormal vaginal discharge, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor can diagnose BV and rule out other infections, such as gonorrhea.
So, what’s the cure for BV?
Bacterial vaginosis is curable by using antibiotics. Even after a woman has been cured, however, BV often recurs. The second course of antibiotics is necessary if a woman experiences recurrent bacterial vaginosis that produces symptoms.
A few antibiotic remedies that treat BV are:
- metronidazole (Flagyl) taken by either oral (pill) form or vaginal metronidazole gel (Metrogel). Oral metronidazole may cause some minor but uncomfortable side effects but is believed to be the most effective treatment. The gels do not typically cause side effects, although yeast vaginitis can occur as a side effect of the medication.
- vaginal clindamycin cream (Cleocin)
- tinidazole (Tindamax) is an antibiotic that appears to be effective in treating bacterial vaginosis and may have fewer side effects than metronidazole.
Can BV recur?
Despite a full recovery, there are still chances it may reappear. Unfortunately, more than half of those treated experience recurrent symptoms within 12 months.
It is unclear why so many recurrent infections develop. With recurrent symptoms, you can get a second course prescription of antibiotics.
BV is usually easily cured with antibiotics — either a pill that you swallow or a gel or cream that you put in your vagina. There are a few different antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis treatment, but the most common ones are metronidazole and clindamycin.
One of the most common questions asked is:
Can bacterial vaginosis (BV) be treated and cured with home remedies?
While there are no home remedies or natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis, antibiotics are the only treatment. It is important to note that douching (rinsing the interior of the vagina) will not help with BV, and there is no proven medical benefit of douching. Douching may flush bacteria farther up the genital tract into the uterus or Fallopian tubes, potentially worsening the condition.
Studies of yogurt/lactobacilli probiotic preparations (either taken orally or applied to the vagina), which are designed to help reestablish the lactobacilli population in the vagina, have not shown consistent results in treating bacterial vaginosis.
Not treating symptomatic Bacterial Vaginosis may have some severe repercussions including:
- Increasing your chance of contracting HIV if you have sexual intercourse with someone who is infected with HIV
- If you are HIV positive, increasing your chance of passing HIV to your sexual partner
- Increased chances of premature delivery and early childbirth.
- Increases your chances of getting other STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. These bacteria can sometimes cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may make it difficult for gonorrhea or in some extreme cases, cause infertility.
This blog post aimed to provide you with a comprehensive, detailed overview of what constitutes BV infection. We looked at the various symptoms, complications, how you can diagnose the condition properly, risk factors associating with this condition as well as what are the treatment and precautionary measures to take on. If you still any questions and queries relating to your health, please reach out to our team at Dr.Amal Al Qedrah for more information.