Bacterial vaginosis (BV) or vaginal bacteriosis is a common problem of bacterial imbalance in the vagina for women between the ages of 15-44. It is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but BV can develop after an intercourse. Bacterial vaginosis is not a serious problem, but it causes vaginal discharge and viganial odor that can be disturbing.
It is better to rule out gonorrhea or Chlamydia which are serious vaginal infections during diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis. Usually bacterial vaginosis resolves on its own within a couple of days. Sometimes home remedies can help in faster relief from BV and in some cases antibiotics may be required.
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis is a condition that reflects imbalance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vagina. Millions of good bacteria live in our body and in the vagina to keep our internal organs healthy. They live long with bad bacteria and sometime the balance is altered in favour of bad bacteria.
There are two basic ways BV is developed. Either the number of bad bacteria increases due to some reason The kind of bacteria that thrive in the airless environment called anaerobic bacteria rise and the another type called lactobacilli dies. In either case bacterial vaginosis develops.
In fact reduction in lactobacilli bacteria reduces acidity in the vagina which in turn encourages growth of anaerobic bacteria causing imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis is very common and it is believed that every 1 in 3 women may have bacterial vaginosis at some time in their life.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
- White grey discharge with fishy smell
- More noticeable smell during sex
- High discharge just after periods or sex
- No itch or soreness
There are other conditions such as thrush and other sexually transmitted infections. However those discharge are accompanied with itch and swelling.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
BV is caused by the imbalance of anaerobic bacteria and lactobacilli bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis is neither caused by any infection nor by any specific germs.
It is not even a hygiene issue. In fact excessive washing of vagina particularly with soap can cause conducive alkaline environment for anaerobic bacteria to grow and disturb the balance to cause bacterial vaginosis.
The exact causes of BV are not known. What is known is that if the acidity in the vagina is reduced then bacterial vaginosis is triggered. Use of soap and perfumed deodorants can trigger it and even worsen the existing condition.
Acidity is measure on pH scale. Normal acidity of vagina ranges 3.8-4.5 on the scale. Therefore, if the pH increases above 4.5 then anaerobic bacteria grows and lactobacilli dies causing imbalance resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
Following are some of the causes to increase acidity in the vagina
- Change of sexual partner
- Copper coil contraception
- Past history of sexual infections
- Prolonged heavy periods
- Use of antibiotics
- Us of perfumed lubricants
- Wearing nylon undergarments
One or more of the above triggers of increasing acidity can cause bacterial vaginosis.
Male sexual partner doesn't get affected by bacterial vaginosis as it is not a contagious condition and it is a women specific condition which only affects vagina.
How is Diagnosis of BV Done?
Your gynecologist can easily diagnose BV from appearance of discharge and the typical fishy smell.
Additional test to check pH of the vaginal discharge is undertaken to reconfirm it. If there is no itching and the pH is above 4.5 then it is bacterial vaginosis.
A nurse will usually take a swab from vagina and send it to laboratory for examination and testing. You can do a self pH test as the testing kits are available in pharmacies.
Can Home Remedies Soothe Bacterial Vaginosis ?
Yes they can certainly help in getting rid of the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis fast.
You can use following home remedies to get rid of bacterial vaginosis.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Coconut oil
In addition to above remedies following practice will help fast relief from bacterial vaginosis
- Maintain good hygiene around your vagina
- Follow safe sex practices
- Wear cotton clothes and undergarments
- Do not apply soap to wash vagina
Treatment of BV when Pregnant
You need to fix bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy by medical treatment if required. Waiting for it to get resolved on it's own or totally depending on home remedies during pregnancy is not a good idea.
Home remedies do work but if they don't then you don't want any other complications during this period. So, consult your gynecologist who will prescribe suitable antibiotics and other medications.
Antibiotics can be taken orally as well as applied topically as creams or inserted in vagina as capsules (Ovules).
Extensive use of antibiotics can cause yeast infections that is an unwanted development. So follow your gynecologist who is your best guide to treat you from bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy.
Prevention and Other Tips
You can reduce your risk of BV by taking following precautions
- Do not use soap to clean your vagina. Always use warm water.
- Wear cotton undergarments.
- Do not douche. Douching sometimes removes good bacteria that help stop infections.
- Avoid using deodorant and perfume products around your vaginal area
- Avoid over washing of vagina
- Change your pads or tampons frequently
- Dry your vagina after washing swimming and workout
- Wash and dry your anus and vagina both
- Change your undergarments immediately after swimming and working out
- Be monogamous - having sex with a single partner significantly reduce your chances of bacterial vaginosis. It is important that your partner also remains faithful.
- Use condoms
- Avoid too much of alcohol
- Avoid drugs
Following all the above precautions will significantly reduce your chances of getting bacterial vaginosis.