Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common kind of vaginal infection in women between the ages of 15 and 44. In this article, we’ll discuss the common causes of BV infection.
Bacterial vaginosis, defined
The woman’s vagina naturally has various types of bacteria, both good and bad. As long as there’s a balance in the amount of these bacteria, they will not be a cause of concern.
In bacterial vaginosis, an overgrowth of a certain kind of bacteria upsets the natural balance, causing vaginal inflammation and other symptoms including:
- Foul vaginal odor; most women describe it as a “fishy” smell, which is more prominent after sex
- Vaginal itching or pain
- Burning sensation, especially during urination
- Abnormal vaginal discharge; it can be white, grey, or green
What causes BV infection?
We know that changes in the amount of bacteria in the vagina cause bacterial vaginosisbut what upsets the natural balance?
Through extensive studies, medical experts discovered that the following factors might upset the natural balance in the vagina and cause BV:
Having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners
Scientists are still investigating the connection between sexual activity and bacterial vaginosis. They speculate that sex may trigger changes in the vaginal bacterial environment, leading to increased BV risk.
As it is, bacterial vaginosis is more common in sexually active women. The risk also increases for women with a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners. Likewise, a female with a sexual partner who’s also a female has increased BV risk. Still, please note that women who are not sexually active can still contract BV.
It’s important to note: Bacterial vaginosis occurs in the woman’s genital area, but it is not a sexually-transmitted infection. In fact, BV doesn’t typically spread from person to person.
So, does it mean that you can have sex even if you have BV? Doctors are firmly against it. For one, sex causes BV infection; moreover, the condition also increases the risk of STIs.
According to experts, douching causes increased BV infection risk.
Douching is the method of cleaning the inside of the vagina with water or other “cleansing” mixtures. The cleansing liquid varies, but most packages sold in the market contain water, vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. In douching, a woman squeezes the water or liquid mixture into the vagina through a nozzle or tube.
Please note that it is different from cleaning the outside of the vagina with warm water. Washing the vagina with warm water is not harmful, but intentionally squeezing a mixture of liquid inside can disrupt the natural bacterial environment and cause conditions like bacterial vaginosis.
Experts highlight that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, so it does not need any kind of “cleaning.”
Other possible causes of BV infection
Generally, anything that potentially disrupts the bacterial flora in the vagina can trigger bacterial vaginosis. Examples include the use of perfumed feminine products and birth control methods like intrauterine devices.
Finally, women who have naturally low amounts of good bacteria in their vagina are more at risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.
Treating BV infection and possible complications
If you have BV symptoms, set an appointment with your doctor.
Most cases of bacterial vaginosis are treatable with antibiotics. Your male partner most likely does not need treatment, but if your partner is a woman, she should go to the doctor as well.
It’s crucial to avoid self-medicating. Women who experience bacterial vaginosis symptoms sometimes believe that they have a yeast infection. In some occasions, they self-treat by applying anti-fungal creams. The problem is that BV doesn’t respond to anti-fungal creams, so the women are unknowingly prolonging their infection.
Although BV doesn’t generally cause complications, prolonging the infection can lead to several risks, including pelvic inflammatory disease, STIs, post-gynecologic surgery infections, and preterm birth if you’re pregnant.
Recurrent bacterial vaginosis
According to doctors, it’s common for BV to come back, usually within 3 months. The causes of recurring BV infection don’t change, but if you keep getting the condition (more than twice in 6 months), the doctor may treat you for a more extended period.
If you have a recurring BV infection, talking to your doctor is crucial, as they can help you identify possible triggers.
Learn more about Bacterial Vaginosis here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.