What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Bacterial vaginosis, also called BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age. It happens when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted and replaced by an overgrowth of certain bacteria. The vagina normally contains mostly “good” bacteria, and fewer “harmful” bacteria. BV develops when there is an increase in “harmful” bacteria and fewer “good” bacteria.
What causes BV?
The cause of BV is not understood. It can develop when something, like sexual contact, disrupts the balance between the good bacteria that protect the vagina from infection and the harmful bacteria that don't. It is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV, but BV is more common among women who have had vaginal sex. But BV is not always from sexual contact. We do know that certain things can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and put you more at risk for BV:
We also know that you do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or from touching objects around you.
What are the signs of BV?
Women with BV may have an abnormal vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor. Some women report a strong fish-like odor, especially after sexual intercourse. The discharge can be white (milky) or gray and thin. Other symptoms may include burning when urinating, itching around the outside of the vagina, and irritation. However, these could be symptoms of another infection too. Some women with BV have no symptoms at all.
How can I find out if I have BV?
There is a test to find out if you have BV. Your doctor takes a sample of fluid from your vagina and has it tested. Your doctor may also be able to see signs of BV, like a grayish-white discharge, during an examination of the vagina.
How is BV treated?
BV is treated with antibiotics, which are medicines prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor may give you either metronidazole or clindamycin. Generally, male sex partners of women with BV do not need to be treated. You can get BV again even after being treated.
Is it safe to treat pregnant women who have BV?
All pregnant women with symptoms of BV or who have had a premature delivery or low birth weight baby in the past should be tested for BV and treated if they have it. The same antibiotics that are used to treat non-pregnant women can be used safely during pregnancy. However, the amount of antibiotic a woman takes during pregnancy may be different from the amount taken if not pregnant.
Can BV cause medical problems?
In most cases, BV doesn't cause any problems. But some problems can happen if BV is untreated.
How can I prevent BV?
BV is not well understood by scientists, and the best ways to prevent it are unknown. What is known is that BV is associated with having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners. Follow these tips to lower your risk for getting BV: