Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common condition of the vagina. While we don’t know why some are more likely to get it than others, there are some things that may put you at increased risk.
The Most Common Vaginal Infection
By Stacie Hanna, Nurse Midwife
Every single day, patients come into my practice with various complaints; a change in their vaginal discharge, a new vaginal odor, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, vaginal itching, or a burning sensation. Often times, their complaints may be vaguer; a “different feeling” or “it just doesn’t feel right”. These symptoms can be embarrassing, painful and downright frustrating. So, what’s the deal? Well, it might be something called bacterial vaginosis, or affectionately known as, BV. I say that jokingly because if you’ve ever had BV, then you know there is nothing affectionate about it. Before you panic, keep reading. Here’s all you need to know!
What is BV?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common condition of the vagina. While we don’t know why some are more likely to get it than others, there are some things that may put you at increased risk. Risk factors may include multiple sex partners, a new sex partner, douching, sharing sex toys, change in stress level, scented soaps, your menses, IUD, smoking…long story short, there’s a lot of risk factors.
Ultimately, it comes down to the pH of your vagina and the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Vaginas are healthiest in a moderately acidic environment. All of the risk factors mentioned above can decrease the acidity in your vagina, which then disrupts the normal balance of bacteria and allows the “bad” to overgrow, and BOOM, BV!
How can you prevent BV?
For starters, one of the most important things you can do for your vaginal health is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Focus on good nutrition, hydration, exercise and stop smoking. More specifically, limiting sexual partners and using condoms, not sharing sex toys and properly cleaning your sex toys, are very valuable practices in not just preventing BV, but also preventing other sexually transmitted infections. Many find that when or if they start to develop a change in their vaginal discharge or odor, they turn to douching to “clean things out”. DON’T DO IT! Douching only creates more bacterial imbalance and will likely make your symptoms worse. Other tips include avoiding baths with scented soaps, washing and rinsing well with mild soaps and trying to find ways to keep your stress levels at bay. You may be rolling your eyes at that last recommendation, and trust me, I get it! Let’s take a deep, cleansing breath before we continue.
What are symptoms of BV?
As mentioned, symptoms of BV may be vague; “it just doesn’t feel right”. It is not uncommon to struggle to find the perfect descriptive words for what you’re feeling, and that’s ok. Some of the more common symptoms may include a fishy odor, that may be stronger after sex or around your period, a watery, white, gray, green or foamy discharge, there may be itching or burning with or without urination, new or ongoing pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse.
What if you think you might have BV?
If you think you may have symptoms that could be related to BV, please schedule an appointment to see us at Evergreen Women’s Health. The appointment will typically include a pelvic exam, assessment, and a vaginal pathogens test; a collected sample of your vaginal discharge for further evaluation at a lab. It is quick and easy to perform, and depending on your age and comfort level, we may even have you collect the sample yourself. Whatever the collection method, we want you to feel in control of your own body and health, so don’t hesitate to come in.
I was told I have BV, now what?
Once you have been told you have BV, it can typically be treated with a round of antibiotics.For those who have recurrent BV, it may require multiple rounds of treatment and various antibiotic options.If you have an IUD and find you can’t get rid of BV altogether, it may be necessary to have your IUD removed until your body can clear the infection.Remember when we talked about the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your vagina?There are two very specific probiotics that promote vaginal health; Lactobacillus Reuteri and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus.Taking these probiotics can be an easy and helpful way to restore some of the “good” bacteria and prevent future BV infections.