What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

By January 8, 2020Gynaecology

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginal infection for women of childbearing age. As such, women aged between 15 and 44 should be aware of BV and the risks it can potentially pose.

Bacterial Vaginosis

But what is Bacterial Vaginosis, what are its symptoms, and how can it be treated? Read on to find out.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection among women that is characterised by an alteration of the normal vaginal bacteria or microbiome. The infection occurs when there is a loss of the Lactobacillus bacterial species which generally live in the vagina, and an overgrowth of anaerobic species such as Gardnerella, Atopobium, Prevotella, Sneathia. BV usually causes excessive discharge with a strong odour which can be irritating; however, sometimes women experience no symptoms. While BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, it can commonly occur after sex and may also increase the risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease. While BV is not always a major cause for concern, it is important that BV is treated quickly and effectively to avoid any other unwanted complications. 

What causes Bacterial Vaginosis?

There are a number of activities that can have a significant impact on the bacteria that is present in the vagina and therefore cause BV. These may include:

  • douching, or using water or a medicated solution to clean the vagina
  • having a bath with antiseptic liquids
  • having a new sex partner or sex with multiple partners
  • using perfumed bubble baths, vaginal deodorants, and some scented soaps
  • smoking
  • washing underwear with strong detergents

What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Between 50 and 70% of women affected by BV will not experience any symptoms; however, a number of symptoms can occur. These include: 

  • watery or thin discharge 
  • discharge which is grey or white in colour
  • strong and unpleasant smelling discharge 
  • burning during urination
  • itching and pain around the vagina

It is important to see a healthcare professional as soon as any of these symptoms do arise. 

Possible complications of Bacterial Vaginosis

BV alone does not pose any significant harm to a woman; however, if it goes untreated, BV can increase the risk of creating other complications. BV has been linked with a higher risk of developing sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and HIV, and is also linked with HPV & cervical cancer, as well as pregnancy-related complications including miscarriage and preterm labour and even infertility. BV also increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection and inflammation of the upper female genital tract that can have severe consequences. Furthermore, women with BV may find that In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be less likely to succeed.

Diagnosis of Bacterial Vaginosis

When seeking a diagnosis of any of these symptoms, a doctor may be able to diagnose BV from a description of symptoms and a physical examination. It may also be suggested that patients undergo a sexual health test to ensure no STIs are present. Generally, a swab test can be used to collect sample cells from the vaginal wall, and through this, the pH balance of the vagina can be measured.

Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis

BV often clears up without treatment, but women with signs and symptoms should seek treatment to avoid complications. Most commonly, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics in the form of a single dose, a course of tablets or a topical gel. Antibiotics are effective in approximately 90% of cases, and symptoms will usually clear up within a few days. It is important to note that the risk of reoccurrence is relatively high, so women should stay on top of their treatment and remain wary of any changes to their body. 

Dr Bevan Brown is one of the most trusted gynaecologists in Sydney and will be thrilled to give you complete and compassionate care in every way possible.

If you have any questions regarding Bacterial Vaginosis or would like to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to get in touch.