Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age and it occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain “bad” bacteria in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis is linked to an imbalance in the bacteria that are normally found in a female’s vagina – an imbalance in the vagina’s naturally occurring bacterial flora. However, nobody fully understands why this imbalance occurs. The vagina usually contains mostly good bacteria and few harmful bacteria – bacterial vaginosis occurs when these harmful bacteria grow in numbers. It is not known what role these harmful bacteria play in causing BV.
A female’s vagina should contain lactic acid bacteria, called lactobacilli. These bacteria produce lactic acid, making the vagina slightly acidic, preventing other bacteria from growing there. If the vagina is not as acidic as it should be, other bacteria may have the opportunity to grow. If there are fewer lactobacilli the vagina may become less acidic.
Any female can develop BV. Some behaviors or activities may upset the balance of the naturally occurring bacterial flora and increase the risk of developing BV, including:
Douching – using water or a medicated solution to clean the vagina
Having a bath with antiseptic liquids
Having a new sex partner
Having multiple sex partners
Perfumed bubble baths and some scented soaps
Using an IUD (intrauterine device), such as a contraceptive device made from plastic and copper that fits inside the uterus
Using vaginal deodorants
Washing underwear with strong detergents
Women with BV may have an abnormal vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odour. Some women report a strong fish-like odour, especially after intercourse. Discharge, if present, is usually white or gray; it can be thin. Women with BV may also have burning during urination or itching around the outside of the vagina, or both. However, most women with BV report no signs or symptoms at all.
BV can be treated with antibiotic pills, vaginal creams or suppositories. Taking Probiotic tablets (Probiflora®) wil help to restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina. Sometimes BV will clear up on its own, but getting treatment is important to avoid complications.
How to prevent BV
1. Help keep your vaginal bacteria balanced. Wash your vagina and anus every day with mild soap. When you go to the bathroom, wipe from your vagina to your anus. Do not use vaginal deodorants, bubble bath or anti-septic liquids in your bath.
2. Keep the area cool by wearing cotton or cotton-lined underpants.
3. Avoid tight pants and skip the pantyhose in summer.
4. Don’t douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This may raise your risk of BV. It may also make it easier to get BV again after treatment.
If you suspect you might have contracted a STD, test yourself with a self-test quiz, the STD Quiz.
You may also chat to a facilitator on LIVE CHAT. It is an anonymous, free, text-based helpline.