Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is very common in the U.S. and around the world, but what is it? Every vagina produces a string of ‘good bacteria’ that helps to keep the inside clean, and helps protect it from other ‘bad bacteria’ getting inside.
What causes it?
Experts are not sure what the exact cause is, as BV has been known to happen randomly in some women, possibly even from improper cleaning after a bowel movement. However, it is also known to be more common in people who have multiple sex partners.
Douching can play a role in BV as well, since douches are a very strong cleanser – so strong, in fact – that they even clean out all the ‘good bacteria’ that the body works hard to create in order to protect the vagina from infection. Most doctors will tell women to avoid douches because of this.
Since the causes vary, this is not strictly an STD. Virgins can still get it, but the chances increase with the more sex partners you have.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are almost always present, and show up in the form of a white discharge from the vagina, usually accompanied by a foul odor.
How do you diagnose it?
To know for sure if you have BV, you need to see a doctor. The doctor will take a smear from the inside of the vagina and test it on-site or in a lab for acidity levels. These levels will give a positive or negative result for BV.
Bacterial Vaginosis can be cured easily with antibiotics. However, the antibiotics will not just kill the bad bacteria – they will kill the good bacteria too. This makes it likely for a recurring episode soon after. Because of this, many doctors will also prescribe natural probiotics to be taken at the same time to help the body produce the good bacteria faster to begin defending itself again. If BV is or becomes a regular problem for you, probiotics can be taken on a daily basis as a maintenance plan to prevent future cases of BV.
If left untreated, BV will continue to get worse, with the discharge thickening and producing a more foul odor. BV can also put you at increased risk for transmitting or contracting the HIV virus if you are exposed. It also increases your susceptibility to contracting Herpes, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and possibly other STDs if exposed to those as well. If you contract BV during a pregnancy, the untreated condition can lead to premature delivery.
Since most women produce some sort of discharge at some point during the month, be sure to take careful note of any changes so you can see a doctor and get it remedied quickly.