Bacterial Vaginosis: a Very Common Infection You Should Be Aware Of

No one likes to think about what could go wrong with their genitals (shrink), but bacterial vaginosis is something every woman should know about. Let’s talk about what it is, how to protect yourself and what to do if you have one.

Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common problems that can go wrong with female genitalia, but it’s not often talked about. We didn’t even mention it in our guide to female genitalia . (Thanks to some savvy commenters for your attention!) As the name suggests, bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection that can occur in the vagina. Bacteria are roughly divided into “good” and “bad” strains. We all have a decent amount of “bad” bacteria living in our system at any given time, but the “good” bacteria are capable of holding back the “bad” bacteria. The vagina does an incredible job of maintaining this delicate balance of healthy bacteria , but there are several strains of bacteria that can lead to bacterial vaginosis. BV is usually a mild infection that clears up on its own in just a few days, but in some cases it can get worse.

If you have a vagina, you can get BV

The risk factors for developing bacterial vaginosis are extensive. Basically, if you’ve ever had penetrative intercourse, you’re susceptible (although bacterial vaginosis can be contracted even without intercourse). The more partners you have, the better your chances. Doctors do not fully understand how bacteria are transmitted between two people who have sex, so it is not entirely clear how intercourse leads to BV. It is worth noting that the association of BV with intercourse is so unclear that it is not currently classified as a sexually transmitted infection.

Other risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include smoking and the presence of an IUD . Taking antibiotics can also lead to bacterial vaginosis. Antibiotics kill the “bad” bacteria that cause disease, but they can also kill the “healthy” bacteria that try so hard to keep your genitals healthy. The best preventive measure you can take against BV is to avoid douching. Our society has done a great job in making women believe their genitals are dirty and in need of cleaning. But your vagina is great at keeping itself clean, and douching only serves to kill beneficial bacteria.

You may have BV and not even know

About half of all women with bacterial vaginosis have no symptoms, so you can get an infection without even knowing it. The main symptom of bacterial vaginosis is usually a strange odor and vaginal discharge. Since women have been trained to be shy about their typical smell and discharge (remember, regular discharge is perfectly normal ), you need to look for a sudden change to what you are used to. Some women report that their discharge takes on a “fishy” smell or becomes darker. These symptoms become more noticeable after penetrative intercourse.

What to do if you are worried that you have BV

If you have symptoms or an uncomfortable feeling that something is wrong, you should visit an obstetrician-gynecologist. Your doctor will examine and take a sample of your discharge. They examine the sample under a microscope to check for bacterial vaginosis and rule out a yeast infection or STI. They will check the pH level in your vagina. Your doctor may also perform an embarrassingly called “odor test.” This test involves applying a drop of potassium hydroxide to a sample and checking for a fishy smell.

You will most likely be given a prescription for oral antibiotics or an antibiotic suppository, gel, or cream. Ironically, antibiotics may have been the reason why you got bacterial vaginosis in the first place. Continuing the irony, your antibiotic treatment could give you a yeast infection . About the joy of modern medicine! Be sure to take yogurt or probiotics while you are taking antibiotics to pump more beneficial bacteria into your body. You can also ask your doctor for a “just in case” prescription for Diflucan if you are susceptible to yeast infections. Most women will experience a recurrence of BV, so keep checking yourself for symptoms over the next few months.

Although bacterial vaginosis can be fairly harmless in most cases, it can cause complications if left untreated. Don’t put off going to the doctor. In very rare cases, BV is correlated with miscarriages and early births in pregnant women, and having BV can also make you more susceptible to contracting sexually transmitted infections. Most likely, your encounter with bacterial vaginosis will not cause any problems, but it is better to play it safe.

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