Vaginal infections are a common complaint among women. Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by bacteria, but can often be mistaken for a yeast infection. It is said to affect 21.2 million women in the United States alone. There is no relation to sexual intercourse as women who have never had sex can still get the infection. It does however increase with the number of partners a woman has. This means the infection can be transmitted sexually if a woman is sexually active. This article will explain what bacterial vaginosis is and how it can be managed.
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by bacteria. Your vagina has high numbers of healthy bacteria known as, lactobacilli. There is also a small number of anaerobic bacteria, but when these numbers grow too high bacterial vaginosis develop. Researchers are still looking into why the bacteria numbers grow too high.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t always have symptoms so many women don’t even know they have it. Sometimes the symptoms may mimic a yeast infection. One important point is that yeast infections cause itching in the vaginal area and bacterial vaginosis does not. The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are:
Discharge There are copious amounts of a white/grey discharge. It may even be yellowish in color.
Foul Odor Bacterial vaginosis causes a foul odor that many women describe as “fishy.” This odor becomes very bad after intercourse.
The symptoms can be mistaken for STD’s including; chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.
It isn’t completely understood what causes bacterial vaginosis. What they can see is that is has to do with the bacterial balance in the vagina. The lactobacilli growth slows down and anaerobic bacteria begin to grow out of control. There are still no answers as to what throws off the balance.
What Are the Risk Factors for Bacterial Vaginosis?
There are a few risk factors that raise the chance of bacterial vaginosis. Risk factors include:
Multiple sex partners
Use of feminine products that are scented
Diagnosing Bacterial Vaginosis
If you have any unusual vaginal symptoms, you should see your doctor. It is not always a yeast infection and yeast infection creams will not work for BV. Likewise, a sexually transmitted disease could turn very serious if left untreated. So it is best to see your doctor to rule out other causes. Your doctor will do the following:
Medical & Social History Your doctor will ask about your medical and social history. You will need to be honest about sexual activity and any medications you have recently taken.
Physical & Pelvic Examination Your doctor will look you over and then do a pelvic exam. You will need to lie back on the table and place your feet in stirrups. During the pelvic exam, the doctor will insert two fingers and press them together on your abdomen with one hand outside. This checks for pain and masses in the pelvic area.
Sample Secretions for Examination & Culture After your pelvic examination, the doctor will insert a speculum and look inside of your vagina for signs of infection. Then a sample of vaginal fluid is taken and examined under a microscope and tested for pH. If the pH of your vagina is higher than 4.5, you may have BV. Lastly, the swab will be sent to the lab to culture for any other bacteria or STD’s.
Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosish
Treatment for bacterial vaginosis is very important because complications can develop. In pregnancy, premature delivery can occur if left untreated. It can also cause complications with certain surgical procedures in the reproductive organs or urinary tract.
The treatment for BV is certain types of antibiotics:
Metronidazole (Flagyl) This is single handedly the most commonly used treatment for BV. It is also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. You take two tablets daily for 7 days. The doctor can also prescribe a Flagyl cream that is placed directly into the vagina.
Note: There are severe adverse effects to mixing alcohol with Flagyl. Do not drink alcohol until treatment is over.
Probiotics Some doctors have found that adding lactobacillus along with Flagyl may make it work better and help to restore the “good” bacteria in the vagina.
Clindamycin If you are allergic to Flagyl or it is not effective, doctors may opt to use clindamycin. They can prescribe an oral course that is taken two times a day for 7 days or vaginal cream that is taken one time daily for 7 days.
Note: This antibiotic is not used as first line treatment due to the risk of bowel infection. Also, make sure you use another form of contraception during use as antibiotics weaken the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Tinidazole This antibiotic is taken in a single dose and doctors may try it if other antibiotics do not work. You need to avoid alcohol with this medication as well.
Lifestyle Changes & Prevention Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis takes a little work on your part to go away and not come back. Researchers do know that certain things women do may contribute to the changes in vaginal flora. Here are some lifestyle tips that can help bacterial vaginosis heal and possibly prevent it:
Do Not Douche Cleaning your vagina kills off the “good bacteria” that you need to keep bacterial levels in check.
Avoid Too Many Baths Baths are fine, but taking them often can lead to BV. This is especially true with little girls taking too many bubble baths. Do not use anything in your bathwater.
Change out of your Wwimsuit after Swimming Keeping a wet swimsuit on can lead to bacterial growth.
Increase Water Intake Water can help balance the pH levels and flush out any infection.
Clean Before & After Sex This means you and your partner. You may force bacteria into the vagina during sex.
Wear Cotton Panties Cotton panties help you breathe down there and keeps the area dry.
Always Wipe Front to Back Especially after a bowel movement. You can wipe bacteria from your anus into the vagina.
Home Remedies & Alternative Treatments for Bacterial Vaginosis
Apple Cider Vinegar When you do take a bath, try using 1 cup of apple cider vinegar into your bathwater and soak for 15 minutes. This can help kill bacteria and balance vaginal pH.
Yogurt Make yogurt a regular part of your diet. It contains healthy probiotics that help balance your body’s bacteria.
Garlic Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic. Try eating a clove daily.
Fenugreek Tea You can take one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and soak them in water overnight. The next day, drink the water first thing in the morning before eating. Fenugreek helps with a lot of different reproductive issues in women.