What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis is a disease characterized by the disruption of flora in the woman’s vagina. Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of the healthy bacteria found in a woman’s vagina leading to abnormal vaginal discharge. This condition is highly common in sexually active women yet it is grossly misunderstood.
Facts About Bacterial Vaginosis
- Bacterial Vaginosis is not dangerous but it is very uncomfortable and disrupts a woman’s life
- One in every three sexually active women will suffer from Bacterial Vaginosis at some point in her life
- Bacterial Vaginosis is often confused with diseases like yeast infection and other vaginal infections but it is an entirely different disease with a different profile
- Recurrence of the disease is possible and occurs in half of patients after treatment
- Bacterial Vaginosis is not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) though sexually active women are more prone to suffering from the condition
- Women who are not sexually active can also suffer from Bacterial Vaginosis
- Having a Bacterial Vaginosis increases a woman’s susceptibility to STIs including HIV
What are the Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis?
The exact cause of Bacterial Vaginosis is not known. But scientists explain it this way; a healthy vagina has a number of naturally occurring bacteria. One species of bacteria known as Lactobacilli is responsible for ensuring the rest of the bacteria do not excessively multiply. Therefore, Bacterial Vaginosis is directly linked to the decrease of Lactobacilli in the vaginal tract. Some of the causes of this include:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Using scented soaps and vaginal deodorant
- Pregnant women are highly prone to suffering from Bacterial Vaginosis due to iron deficiency
- Stress has also been linked to Bacterial Vaginosis
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Unpleasant vaginal odor that is, a fish like odor
- Burning sensation during urination
How Does Bacterial Vaginosis Affect a Pregnant Woman and Her Baby?
According to a study at Ghent University in Belgium, pregnant women are susceptible to getting Bacterial Vaginosis due to iron deficiency. Bacterial Vaginosis negatively affects pregnant women as it leads to several complications. These include:
- Premature rupturing of the membrane surrounding the fetus
- Premature birth
- Preterm labor
- Infection of amniotic fluid
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Bacterial Vaginosis does not directly affect the fetus
Is Bacterial Vaginosis Contagious?
Bacterial Vaginosis is only contagious to a small extent. There is no evidence that a woman infected with Bacterial Vaginosis can pass on an infection to her male sexual partner. There is evidence however, that shows that women who have sex with other women can pass on the infection. Bacterial Vaginosis cannot be passed on in the following ways:
- Sharing a swimming pool
- Sharing a toilet seat
- Sharing beddings
Bacterial Vaginosis is diagnosed by obtaining a swab from the vagina after which, three tests are carried out:
- The Whiff Test: This is done to detect fishy odor by adding a few drops of potassium hydroxide on the swab sample.
- Acidity Test: The vaginal environment is acidic. If the swab sample is alkaline, this could indicate Bacterial Vaginosis.
- Clue Cells Test: Clue cells coat the bacterial epithelium and their presence could indicate a bacterial overgrowth.
- Other tests may be carried out to rule out vaginal thrush and any other Sexually Transmitted Infection.
Several women swear by using home remedies. Herbal remedies have shown some promising results, but they should not be an excuse for douching. In addition, consult your gynecologist before using any home remedies. The most popular and promising home remedies include the following:
- Adding tea tree oil to your bath water
- Adding garlic extract or juice to your bath water
- Adding vinegar to your bath water
- Adding lemon oil or lavender oil to your bath water
- Soaking a tampon in natural sugar free yoghurt and inserting it into your vagina for several minutes
- Bathing with rose water
- Antibiotics such as Metronidazole and Clindamycin
- Probiotics either alone or combined with antibiotics
- Avoid douching at all costs
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have
- Practice good feminine hygiene but avoid scented soaps, wipes and vaginal deodorants
- Drink a lot of yoghurt
- Maintain a healthy diet of a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables including cranberry juice
- Go for regular checkups at the gynecologist
- Always take all the antibiotics prescribed to avoid recurrence
- Wear cotton underwear
Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common infection affecting sexually active women. It is not dangerous but can be fatal if left untreated. Bacterial Vaginosis can spiral out of control and lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which is characterized by infections of the uterus along with the fallopian tube and can eventually lead to infertility. Therefore, take all the prevention measures and observe your vaginal discharge from time to time to note any changes. Regular checkups to the gynecologist particularly if you’re pregnant will ensure early detection and enable proper treatment.