Birth control and hormones and STDs, oh my! Taking care of your sexual health can feel like a full-time job in and of itself, but Stix is here to simplify your health. We’ve covered UTIs and yeast infections, so now it’s time for Stix to give you the low-down on bacterial vaginosis.
What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal infection caused by a disruption in the vagina’s natural bacteria levels. Normally, plenty of “good” bacteria lives healthily in the vagina. This “good” bacteria is known as lactobacilli. When “bad” bacteria, known as anaerobes, get in and outnumbers the good bacteria, infections can occur. Also known as BV, bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition affecting women ages 15-44 according to the CDC. Luckily, BV is not usually a serious health threat and can clear up in 2-3 days when treated properly.
Bacterial vaginosis symptoms
It’s estimated that about half of people who have bacterial vaginosis don’t experience symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms, however, they will be similar to those of a yeast infection: vaginal itching, a fishy odor, and a change in your discharge. With BV, your discharge will be thinner than usual and might be yellow/green in color. This is usually the indicator that you have BV, rather than a yeast infection.
Bacterial vaginosis causes
While we know that yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the vagina, BV is a bacterial infection caused by a disruption in your pH balance by an overgrowth of bacteria. Most commonly, this bacteria is Gardnerella vaginalis. Some things that can cause your pH balance to change include hormonal changes like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, douching and having sex with a new partner. This said BV is not considered an STD as it can’t be transmitted to another person during sex. The key to lowering your risk of getting BV is to keep your vaginal bacteria balanced by not using soap in your vaginal area, not douching, and limiting your number of sexual partners.
How to get rid of bacterial vaginosis
Prescription medication is always required to treat BV. If you think you might have bacterial vaginosis, see your primary care physician get a prescription to treat your infection. Once treated, the infection should clear up within 2-3 days.
The most common medications that doctors prescribe for patients with bacterial vaginosis are Metronidazole (Flagyl) and tinidazole (Tindamax). These are both oral medications used to treat bacterial infections like BV and are usually taken for 5-7 days. Your primary care physician might also prescribe a suppository cream like Cleocin that is applied internally to reduce swelling and itching.
Additionally, there are proactive steps you can take to help protect against bacterial vaginosis. This includes avoiding scented products in your vaginal area or douching and making sure to wipe front to back after using the bathroom. Bacterial vaginosis is not typically dangerous as long as you treat it properly. Left untreated, the bacteria can circulate throughout your body and cause more serious complications. If you have BV, try to refrain from having sex until it heals to avoid worsening the infection. Try avoiding products like scented tampons, pads, and certain soaps as the chemicals within them can throw off your pH balance.
Any vaginal infection will likely be a negative experience, but educating yourself on what causes it and how to treat it will make your life easier down the road. For more information like this, head to the Stix Library or send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.