The 411 on Bacterial Vaginosis

Posted on: 3 April 2017


From the ability to fertilize eggs and carry a child to the actual miracle of childbirth, the female reproductive system can do a lot. Unfortunately, this complicated system goes through numerous changes over a woman's lifespan, making it one of the most difficult parts of the body to understand.

Properly understanding the signs and symptoms of common ailments will ensure you remain healthy. An estimated 21.2 million women between the ages of 14 and 49 develop bacterial vaginosis, so learning about this common infection is key to your health. With this guide, you will learn the causes, signs, and treatment options for bacterial vaginosis.

The Development of BV

Good bacteria should be present in your vagina, ensuring the vagina stays clean and healthy. Imbalances may occur, affecting the amount of good bacteria that is present and increasing the presence of bad bacteria. This imbalance can cause yeast infections, but the bacterial infection known as bacterial vaginosis is actually more common.

The actual cause of bacterial vaginosis is difficult to determine, but certain habits can increase your risk of these bacterial imbalances.

Douching, engaging in sexual intercourse with a new partner, or having sex without using condoms may all result in bacterial vaginosis. If your body lacks the natural good bacteria, or lactobacilli bacteria, you are at risk of developing bacterial infections in the vagina.

Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

Since the condition does not show symptoms immediately, many women do not even realize they have bacterial vaginosis until it becomes more severe or they visit their gynecologist for annual physicals.

When symptoms to arise, you may notice the following:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge—Yeast infections cause a thick, white discharge in the vagina. However, bacterial vaginosis may cause an excessive amount of thin discharge that appears gray in color.
  • Vaginal odor—The bacterial infection will also cause your vagina to have a strong odor. Many people compare this smell to an unpleasant, fishy odor.
  • Post-intercourse issues—The abnormal discharge and foul odors are most common after sexual intercourse.
  • Vaginal itching—The bacterial imbalance and excess discharge may also cause your vagina to be itchy. This itchiness may be most prominent during and after sexual irritation, but you may experience the discomfort all through the day.
  • Burning pain during sex and urination—Lastly, the change in your vagina's pH levels could also lead to a burning sensation during sex and while urinating.

Diagnosing and Treating BV

If you are showing one or more of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist. After giving a complete medical history, your doctor will then perform a standard pelvic exam. This exam allows your doctor to physically inspect the vagina for signs of an infection. Swabs will be taken of your vaginal discharge, as well. If your vagina's pH levels measure 4.5 or higher, you most likely have bacterial vaginosis.

Oral medications will be prescribed to treat the bacterial infection, but further treatment will be necessary to ease the symptoms of BV.

Creams that are applied to the exterior of the vaginal lips can ease inflammation and discomfort, reducing any irritation and itching. Severe cases of bacterial vaginosis may also require medicated creams that are inserted into the vagina. These anti-inflammatory creams balance out your bacteria while easing irritation and decreasing abnormal discharge.

Bacterial vaginosis is not a life-threatening condition, but it can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional well-being. To learn more about these symptoms and how to treat the pain, use this guide and contact your gynecologist. You will understand the causes, signs, and treatment options for this common bacterial infection and return to normal life.