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What is BV (bacterial vaginosis)?

 

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. While BV isn’t well understood, it is incredibly common, especially in women of childbearing age. Typically BV isn’t serious. However, BV can raise some concern in pregnant women with a history of pregnancy-related complications. Bacterial vaginosis should not be confused with thrush (yeast infection).

 

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

 

Many women with BV don’t have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include a change in vaginal discharge, burning when passing urine and vaginal itching. The changes in vaginal discharge include:

  • A strong fishy smell, particularly after sexual intercourse
  • White or grey discharge
  • Thin and watery discharge

 

What causes BV?

 

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. While BV isn’t classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you are more likely to develop it if you’re sexually active.

 

What causes BV is still unclear, however, there are certain factors that make you more likely to develop it. These include:

  • Being sexually active, especially if you have a new partner or have had multiple sexual partners
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Smoking
  • Using vaginal douches, deodorants, strong detergents, perfumed bubble baths or antiseptic bath liquids

 

 

What are some of the available treatments for this condition?

Treatment is not required in all cases of BV. Women without symptoms do not always need to be treated for bacterial vaginosis. However, if you are experiencing BV symptoms you can be treated by either completing a course of oral antibiotic tablets or using an antibiotic gel that is applied inside the vagina.

It is common for BV to return after treatment. More than half of women who have been successfully treated are likely to have BV again within three months of treatment.

 

How can you help to prevent bacterial vaginosis?

 

Certain behaviours can increase your risk of developing BV.  In order to prevent bacterial vaginosis, try to avoid the following:  

  • Vaginal douching
  • Using vaginal deodorant
  • Using strong detergents when washing your underwear
  • Using scented soaps, perfumed bubble baths, or antiseptic bath liquids

 

In addition, have new or multiple sexual partners can increase your risk of developing BV. Women who smoke are also more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.

 

Why do I keep getting BV?

 

Women who have had BV are likely to redevelop symptoms. In addition, certain behaviours may increase your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. These behaviours include:

  • Vagina douching
  • Using vaginal deodorant
  • Using strong detergents when washing your underwear
  • Using scented soaps, perfumed bubble baths, or antiseptic bath liquids
  • Having a new sexual partner
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Smoking

 

Is there an over the counter treatment for BV?

 

While there are some BV treatments over the counter, none of these are clinically proven. BV is usually successfully treated with oral or topical antibiotics.

Are there home remedies for BV?

 

There are no options when it comes to how to cure BV at home. However, there are precautions you can take to prevent it from developing. These include avoiding the following:

  • Vagina douching
  • Using vaginal deodorant
  • Using strong detergents when washing your underwear
  • Using scented soaps, perfumed bubble baths, or antiseptic bath liquids
  • Having a new sexual partner
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Smoking

 

Will my BV discharge be different than my regular discharge?

 

Yes. A change in discharge is one of the main symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. The changes in discharge include:

  • A strong fishy smell, particularly after sexual intercourse
  • White or grey discharge
  • Thin and watery discharge

 

How is BV different from a yeast infection (thrush)?

 

Thrush is caused by the yeast fungus, while BV is caused by bacterial imbalance in the vagina.

 

Is BV an STD?

 

No, BV is not an STD. However, having unprotected sex or a higher number of sexual partners can increase your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.

* Please note results, timeframe and individual responses to treatments may vary from person to person. If you do need medical advice you should always speak to a doctor, pharmacist or appropriate medical professional.