Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. It is caused by an imbalance in naturally occurring bacteria. There are many possible triggers that can contribute to cause the infection, including: new and multiple sex partners, antibiotics and the use of an IUD.The antibiotics metronidazole and clindamycin are usually prescribed to treat women suffering from Bacterial Vaginosis. Both of these are available on prescription from Doctor-4-U.
“Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection in many women. Some may not know they have it and some may be embarrassed to visit their GP if their showing symptoms and try to treat it themselves. It’s important that you don’t treat it yourself as you may be treating the wrong condition. The symptoms of BV can be similar to other infections such as STIs and so it takes a trained professional to diagnose. GPs and nurses see many cases of BV and there is nothing to be embarrassed about, we’re more concerned with avoiding the complications of the infection.”
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection that usually affects women who are sexually active, however, it has been known to affect women who have not had sex. Bacterial vaginosis or BV is often confused for being an STI, it is not considered to be an STI although it can be passed from one woman to another during sex and this condition can increase your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. It is not an STI but the symptoms can be similar.
BV is one of the most common causes of unusual vaginal discharge which is usually grey in colour, has a thin watery consistency and the smell is described as ‘fishy’ and unpleasant. Unusual vaginal discharge is one of the most notable symptoms of BV, although this condition can be hard to detect as some women may not experience any symptoms at all. Other symptoms can include itching or burning of the vagina, although these are usually symptoms of a yeast infection. In rare cases there may be symptoms such as pain when urinating and during sex, or redness and swelling of the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis is not a life threatening condition but there can be complications if left untreated, particularly if you have BV during pregnancy. Your risk of developing serious STIs such as HIV also increases so it’s vital that you get a diagnosis and are treated straight away.
What causes BV?
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a pH imbalance in the bacteria in the vagina, there is usually an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria. In people with BV there is more bad bacteria known as anaerobes than good bacteria which is known as lactobacilli. In order to fight against infections the vagina is acidic, with BV the vagina becomes less acidic which puts you more at risk of getting sexually transmitted infections. There are many reasons why the pH balance may be disrupted. Many people find that their symptoms are worse after sex, and one of the causes of BV is thought to be having multiple sexual partners.
Bacterial vaginosis is associated with being unclean when in fact being too clean may be the reason you are developing BV. Washing too much with perfumed products or by douching can have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. Many people believe that washing their vagina with these products will prevent them from getting vaginal infections such as BV. This is not the case as you could be increasing your chances of getting BV as perfumed products and douching disrupts the natural balance of bacteria and creates the ideal environment for the anaerobic bacteria to grow. You should instead wash with products specially designed for the intimate area.
Menstruation can also be a trigger for bacterial vaginosis. Your period can make your vagina less acidic and acidity is needed for a healthy vagina. Tampons and pads can also be a cause of a pH imbalance in the vagina, particularly if they’re fragranced. Avoid using fragranced products and change your tampon or pad frequently.
It’s also thought that contraceptive devices such as the copper IUD may cause bacterial vaginosis. IUDs cause longer, heavier periods which puts you more at risk of the anaerobic bacteria multiplying. If you’re having recurrent episodes of BV, most notably around the time of your period and you have a copper IUD fitted this may be the cause and having it taken out may see symptoms stop. However, you should consults options with your GP before having the device removed.
Are there complications of bacterial vaginosis?
BV can come and go as it pleases with no symptoms or complications, however, for some, symptoms can be noticable and can lead to further complications. As we’ve mentioned, you’re at greater risk of contracting STIs if you have bacterial vaginosis. It’s not uncommon for people with BV to get chlamydia at some point which has its own complications. If you know you have BV it’s vital that you get treated to clear it up and use protection such as condoms to avoid contracting serious STIs.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can also be caused by bacterial infections in the vagina which spread to the upper genital tract where this disease occurs. PID can cause bleeding, discharge and pain around the pelvic area and is one of the complications of bad bacteria in the vagina.
More serious complications can occur during pregnancy including premature birth and miscarriage. Although there may be no effects of BV in pregnancy for most women it’s vital that you see your GP if you’re showing any symptoms of bacterial vaginosis or simply have changes in your discharge.
How to treat bacterial vaginosis
There are certain things you can do to avoid getting BV such as:
- Use mild, unfragranced soaps, tampons and pads
- Do not douche
- Wash underwear with mild detergents
- Protect yourself during sex with latex condoms
Prevention is always better than cure but for some women BV can’t be avoided and the symptoms need to be treated. For those women who are displaying symptoms of BV there is medical treatment available. You should avoid treating BV yourself as many people misdiagnose this bacterial infection for another vaginal infection such as thrush which needs to be treated differently. You can get diagnosed at either your doctor’s surgery or a sexual health clinic where you may need to be examined to determine the type of vaginal infection.
Once you have been diagnosed, BV can be treated with gels, creams and medicines which restore the acidity in the vagina so healthy bacteria can grow. Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with antibiotics such as clindamycin and metronidazole which you can buy online at Doctor-4-U. Antibiotics are particularly needed if you are suffering from BV long term.
Metronidazole is used to treat many bacterial infections from skin and dental infections to vaginal infections. This medication is only available on prescription and is needed to avoid complications of BV. With this treatment bacterial vaginosis can usually be cleared up in 7 days and you should finish the entire course to ensure that the infection has fully cleared. Our online doctors can determine whether this medication is the most suitable treatment for your case of BV through your online medical questionnaire.
Can BV come back even it’s been treated?
Yes, some women experience recurring episodes of bacterial vaginosis. It’s not unusual for the infection to return 3 months down the line after being treated. For many women recurring BV comes down to having unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners which you can control with condoms. There may also be an underlying condition that is causing an imbalance in the vaginal bacteria so it’s important to see a GP if you are regularly getting BV to determine the cause of this. Recurring BV may need to be treated long term, usually up to 6 months.