What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection. It is an imbalance of the normal bacteria in the vagina and this allows a large overgrowth of several other types of germs. One of these is gardnerella. The presence of gardnerella germs alone (with no symptoms) does not mean one has BV and does not mean treatment is needed. The normal environment of the vagina can be upset by emotional stress, frequent intercourse, antibiotics, certain foods and some forms of birth control.
BV tends to occur in sexually active young women. It is not known for sure if it is sexually transmitted or not.
What are the symptoms?
- 50% of women have no symptoms even though BV may show up on a test
- fishy odour - sometimes more noticeable after sex without a condom
- white or greyish thin vaginal discharge (sometimes large amounts)
- pain, burning or itching in the vagina - may occur but is not common.
How is it diagnosed?
BV is diagnosed by having swabs taken from the vagina. This is important because there are other vaginal infections with similar symptoms.
How is it treated?
Women with symptoms should be treated. The doctor will prescribe pills such as metronidazole (flagyl), or a special vaginal cream. Medication (creams) that you can buy in the drugstore for yeast infections do not work for BV.
Do not drink alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) while taking Flagyl. Others have noticed a dry metallic taste in their mouth and a dry vagina.
Treating the male partner hasn't been found to be effective in preventing recurrences.
If your infection keeps recurring and is hard to treat you might want to keep a diary of your symptoms and your activities. This allows you to:
- evaluate the amount of discharge and other symptoms
- see if there are patterns to recurrences
- associate symptoms with activities.
Bacterial vaginosis has been linked in studies to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infections, especially following pelvic surgery. BV may also be associated with premature delivery. If you have BV and will be having surgery, you must be treated.
Points to Remember:
- Douching may make BV worse by washing away the "good" bacteria in the vagina.
- You can keep your vagina healthy by:
- eating a well balanced diet
- avoiding chemical irritants - perfumed pads, vaginal deodorants, bubble baths, etc.
- avoiding tight pants and synthetic fabrics in underwear
- always using a condom for sex
- not wearing underwear to bed