Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV is one of the most common vaginal infections known to cause vaginal discharge
that comes with a fishy smelling odor. Understand what causes it and how can you treat it?
Bacterial vaginosis is a very common infection which can occur in women of any age, whether they’re sexually
active or not. Fortunately, BV is easily treatable and can also be treated at home, if caught early enough.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
It is still medically unclear how or why women get BV but it is believed to be caused by an upset of the
balance between good, helpful and healthy organisms in the vagina call lactobacilli, and an overgrowth of bad
bacteria which cause inflammation and infection.
BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of child-bearing age. Even women who are not sexually active
can get BV, however it is most common in sexually-active women, particularly if you have multiple partners or
engage in unsafe sex.
Vaginal douching is also another possible factor that may increase the chances of developing bacterial
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
A foul, fishy odor and a grey or milky white vaginal discharge are the most common symptoms of bacterial
vaginosis. Some women also report itching around the vulvar area and pain or burning during urination. Some women
have no symptoms at all, and only learn that they’ve had BV through a proper pelvic exam. If you are preparing for
an exam to determine whether or not you have BV, or another issue such as vaginal yeast
infection, it’s important that you go when you’re not on your period, and not to use any sprays or
deodorants that can mask the odor as these could cause a false or wrong diagnosis.
How is Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosed?
BV is diagnosed by a doctor or gynecologist. It involves collecting a sample of the vaginal discharge and
examining it for the most common bacteria or an overgrowth of bacteria that denote BV. Doctors can easily tell BV
from other vaginal itching causes such as a yeast infection or a sexually
Treating Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is often treated using a course of antibiotics. These can come either in the form of an oral
antibiotic or a vaginal antibiotic cream or ointment. Sometimes, BV will go away on its own without antibiotic
treatment, however this may not resolve the underlying cause, as vaginal pH levels drop and bacteria growth begins
again. If the problem is persistent, you may need antibiotic treatment.
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Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis
Having multiple sex partners increases the likelihood of having BV, as the normal, healthy environment of the
vagina is exposed to new, or an abundance of bad bacteria. While BV is not a sexually transmitted disease, if you
are a female and have a female sex partner, you can transfer BV to each other. Female condoms and cleaning of
sexual toys after each use is recommended to minimize transfer of BV bacteria.
You should also avoid douching unless specifically recommended by your doctor or gynecologist. Regular douching
upsets the balance of bacteria in the vagina and may provide the perfect area for infections to develop.
Bacterial Vaginosis Home Remedy
Most treatments for BV include a course of antibiotics, such as metronidazole or Flagyl® from your doctor.
However, in the meantime there are several ways you can treat bacterial vaginosis from the comfort and privacy of
your own home - as well as prevent future recurrences of BV.
- Eat More Yogurt - Particularly yogurt that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. bifidus which are cultures
that are present in nearly every kind of yogurt available on the market. If you don’t like the taste of
yogurt, there are acidophilus supplements you can take. This helps replenish the vagina and urinary tract
with helpful, healthy bacteria that can prevent an overgrowth of the bacteria that cause BV. Some women even
insert a tampon coated with plain yogurt into the vaginal area for relief. It seems unusual and unnatural -
but the results are much faster!
- Avoid These Foods if You Have BV - The "bad" bacteria in the vagina thrive on certain
foods including sugar, alcohol, chocolate and cheese. While you have BV, it’s recommended that you avoid eating
foods with these ingredients as they’ll only provide more "fuel" to the bad bacteria causing you to itch and
have that fishy smell.
- Try Folic Acid - Some women report that taking folic acid supplements - 400 mcg x 3 times
a day for five days can provide immediate relief. Combining this with the yogurt treatment may be a helpful
home remedy if you can’t see a doctor for awhile.
- Soak in a Sitz Bath - A sitz bath, which contains warm water, salt (enough so that it
easily dissolves in water) and vinegar (about 1-2 cups) can provide soothing comfort to irritated genital
tissues and folds. Sitting for about 20-30 minutes in this type of bath can usually relieve the itching and
help restore the vagina’s natural pH balance.
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Pregnancy and BV - Should You Be Concerned?
If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with BV, it is crucial that you speak with your doctor immediately
about the proper treatment regimen. Women with BV who are pregnant are more likely to give birth to premature or
low birth weight (less than 5 pounds) babies and are also more likely to have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which may cause permanent,
irreversible damage to the uterine area as well as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
The important thing to remember with bacterial vaginosis is that it’s extremely common and treatable. Consult
your doctor for the best course of action you should take.