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Bacterial Vaginosis: What it is, Common Symptoms, and Treatment

bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very common vaginal infection. It is actually the most frequent vaginal problem seen among women ages fifteen through their early forties. At Green Valley OB/GYN, we aim to provide the best care and guidance for gynecological issues. There are apparent symptoms of bacterial vaginosis; however, similar symptoms overlap for other vaginal infections or possible STDs. It’s important to distinguish the difference and be aware if you are experiencing BV or another issue. 

What is Bacterial Vaginosis? 

BV occurs when the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina is thrown off. MayoClinic defines BV as a “vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina.” While there is no specific cause, certain activities can increase your risk of BV. Being sexually active dramatically increases your chances; however, you’re technically a candidate for BV once your reproductive cycle begins, regardless of sexual activity. 

Getting bacterial vaginosis is not limited to these activities, but your chances are greater if you:

  • Have unprotected sex
  • Frequent douching
  • Have multiple sex partners
  • Have a female sex partner
  • Have a new sex partner
  • Have an IUD
  • Are pregnant

Bacterial vaginosis is not an STD, but it can increase your likelihood of getting one if it goes untreated.  

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

Not everyone with BV will experience symptoms. In fact, up to 84% of women with bacterial vaginosis did not show symptoms. However, if you do show them, these are the most common ones to look for: 

  1. A thin off-white, grey, or green-colored discharge.
  2. A strong “fishy” smelling discharge. Sometimes this smell is more noticeable after sex or during your period. 
  3. Vaginal itching or soreness.
  4. Burning during urination. 

Typically, the most distinctive sign of bacterial vaginosis is the discharge with a “fishy” smell. However, BV has many shared symptoms with other vaginal issues, commonly confused with a yeast infection. While yeast infections tend to cause an abnormal discharge, there is typically a lack of odor. If you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms, you should consult with a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. 

Treating Bacterial Vaginosis

There are some instances, especially for women with no symptoms, where BV will resolve itself on its own. If that is not the case for you, it is also treatable through oral medication and topical treatments. The two most common medications for bacterial vaginosis are metronidazole and clindamycin

Although there are no over-the-counter medications, there are things you can do at home for treatment and prevention. These things include:

  • Adding probiotics to your diet
  • Using a condom or barrier method during sex
  • Change your tampon or pad more frequently during menstruation
  • Avoid douching
  • Change out of exercise clothes immediately after

Treating BV, especially in cases with strong symptoms, is essential because it can lead to other vaginal infections or STDs if not. In addition, leaving bacterial vaginosis untreated while pregnant can cause further complications. Your child can be born with a low weight or born prematurely. 

Contact your OB/GYN

Ultimately, bacterial vaginosis is a common occurrence for many women, and it is very treatable. If you’re experiencing these signs and symptoms, you should consult your OB/GYN to find the best treatment options available. Contact Green Valley OB/GYN at (336) 378-1110 if you believe you may have bacterial vaginosis.