Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a type of infection that can occur in the vagina due to an imbalance in the naturally occurring vaginal bacteria. Approximately 1 in 3 women of reproductive age experience BV at least once in their life.
The vagina contains many kinds of bacteria. Some are ‘good’ and will help to keep your vagina clean and free from infection, whereas some are ‘bad’ and can cause infections like BV. If the bad bacteria overtake the good bacteria, this is when you may start to experience signs of an infection, such as vaginal itching, burning or a smelly discharge.
In this article, we’ll cover how you can contract BV, some of the symptoms and how you can treat it.
How do you get Bacterial Vaginosis?
As stated above, BV can be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Vaginas contain many kinds of bacteria, and Lactobacillus is one of the most important. This form of ‘good’ bacteria helps to maintain the vagina’s natural pH level of between 3.5 and 4.5 and can kill powerful, harmful bacteria and viruses. This could prevent you from contracting infections such as BV or even sexually transmitted infections. However, some women don’t produce enough Lactobacillus which means they are more likely to get infections. If you suffer from these kinds of infections, you should speak to your doctor about your options.
BV isn’t just caused by a lack of good bacteria. You may be using certain products that create an imbalance in your vagina, which could lead to a build-up of bad bacteria. These products include overly scented tampons or sanitary pads, body washes, harsh soaps and scented bubble bath. If you’re using any of these frequently and often get BV, you should consider switching to a more gentle feminine wash.
You’re more likely to get BV if you’re sexually active or if you’ve recently had a change of sexual partner. While BV isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection, women can pass it onto other female sexual partners, so be sure to let your partner know if you think you have it.
Can tampons cause BV?
Tampons can alter the natural balance of vaginal bacteria, so they could be the reason you’re regularly contracting BV. If you can, use sanitary pads instead. Try to completely avoid using scented tampons, and use normal ones where possible. Alternatively, try to reduce your tampon usage if you’re prone to getting BV.
Do hormones in birth control cause BV?
Most contraception won’t cause BV. However, if you have an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted, otherwise known as ‘the coil’, you may be at more risk of getting it. The IUD is fitted inside the uterus. In some cases, it causes irregular bleeding which can create an imbalance in the vaginal bacteria.
Can men get Bacterial Vaginosis?
There’s no evidence that suggests men can contract BV or are affected by the bacteria that causes it.
What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
There aren’t many symptoms of BV, but the most common signs can include:
● Off-white or grey discharge
● Thin and watery discharge
● A strong fishy smell that might get worse after sexual intercourse
It’s worth noting that some women may not experience any symptoms at all. However, this does mean you could pass it onto another female sexual partner without realising, so you should still have occasional check-ups with your doctor to make sure you don’t have the infection, particularly because BV can increase your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection. Even though it is rare, BV can also cause complications for pregnant women, such as premature birth or miscarriage.
BV doesn’t usually cause itching or burning, but experiencing these symptoms could be a sign of another problem, such as Thrush or a urinary tract infection. You should consult your doctor for expert advice.
How to treat Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis can be treated at home using a BV Gel. Be sure to follow the instructions to ensure you’re applying the treatment correctly. The BV Gel is intended to be applied into the vagina to relieve symptoms and treat BV by restoring the vaginal bacterial balance. BV can also be treated with antibiotics.
You may find that the BV returns within three months. This is quite normal, so you should treat it again with a similar treatment. If your BV comes back more than twice in 6 months, speak to your doctor about what steps to take next. Your doctor may also be able to advise you on what could be causing the problem, if you haven’t figured out the cause already.
To prevent it from returning, you should avoid using overly scented products. The vagina is a sensitive area and should be treated with gentle substances that don’t contain any soaps or colourants. This is also the case for your washing powder. When you wash your underwear, avoid strong detergents and use non-bio washing powder where possible.
After you’ve been to the toilet, you should always wipe from front to back to prevent any bacteria from getting into your vagina unnecessarily.
If you smoke, try to give up. This habit can decrease your body’s natural production of oestrogen which can lead to many vaginal health problems, including BV or vaginal dryness.