Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis, also known as BV, is one of the most common causes of bacterial infection in the female reproductive system and is brought on by an imbalance in the usual bacteria found in the vagina. It mostly affects women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant.

What causes BV?

The exact cause of BV is not fully understood, according to CDC, but it is associated with the imbalance of bacteria.

Some types of bacteria are always present in the vagina to keep it healthy. It should contain lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria). The lactobacilli produce lactic acid, making the organ slightly acidic, thus preventing other bacteria from growing there.

BV causes the sufferer to have less lactobacilli, meaning the vagina is not as acidic as it should me. This allows other types of bacteria to grow.

Women who are sexually active are more likely to get BV. Risk, according to the NHS, can also be increased by:

  • Having a new or multiple sexual partners
  • Using soap or deodorant on the vagina
  • Washing underwear with strong detergent
  • Smoking
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) as a contraceptive

What are the symptoms?

BV usually causes an abnormal vaginal discharge, accompanied by an unpleasant fish-like odour (especially after intercourse), white or grey discharge, itchiness and burning during urination.

How is it treated?

It is important to see a doctor if you suspect you have BV, as it needs to be correctly diagnosed and distinguished from other possible vaginal conditions and sexually transmitted diseases.

BV is usually treated with a course of antibiotics, which are 85-90% effective in combating the infection.

There is currently no evidence that probiotics, such as those found in live yoghurt, are of any benefit for treating or preventing BV.

If, after treatment, the symptoms have vanished, there is no need to take any further action. More tests are needed if symptoms persist.

[adsense]Could there be any complications?

BV is not usually accompanied by complications. However, it can increase certain risks, according to CDC:

  • Having BV can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV if she is exposed to the virus.
  • Having BV has been associated with an increase in the development of an infection following surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy or an abortion
  • Having BV during pregnancy can put a woman at increased risk of complications, such as premature delivery or the baby being born weighing less than normal
  • Having BV can increase a woman’s susceptibility to other STDs, such as genital herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea

The bacteria that cause BV can sometimes infect the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This type of infection is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and can cause infertility or damage the fallopian tubes enough to increase the future risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

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Images: Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia