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BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS: CAUSES, PREVENTION, AND TREATMENT
This common vaginal infection can be caused by a bacterial imbalance in he vagina or transmitted through sexual contact.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of vaginal infection in women, and it’s startlingly prevalent in pregnant women.
Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacteria naturally occur in the vagina, but there are both good and bad types. There is a careful balance between the good and bad bacteria that live in the vagina, and when that balance is disrupted, bacterial vaginosis can occur.
What causes this bacterial imbalance isn’t exactly known, but there seems to be some evidence that it can be a sexually transmitted disease. Women who have multiple sexual partners or women who have a new sexual partner are at a higher risk of getting bacterial vaginosis. Male sexual partners of these women carry these bacteria in the penis, so there is evidence of sexual exchange.
But sexual contact is not the only method of infection. Women who have had no sexual contact their whole lives can still get bacterial vaginosis.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Some women have bacterial vaginosis and don’t have any symptoms. But when symptoms do appear, they may include:
• Vaginal discharge that may be white or gray in colour
• Discharge with a strong, foul odour
• Vaginal odour that is particularly strong, with a fishy smell after sex
• Vaginal itchiness
• Painful or burning urination
Bacterial Vaginosis Risk Factors and Complications
Having sex with someone who has bacterial vaginosis, as well as having multiple sex partners or new sex partners, can put you at risk for the infection. Douching can also increase the risk, as it disrupts the balance of bacteria in the vagina.
The complications and health risks of bacterial vaginosis can be serious if the infection isn’t treated. Untreated vaginosis can lead to:
• Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is an inflammation of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and even the ovaries. PID can lead to a number of complications, including infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
• Pregnancy complications
Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis may be at a higher risk for having low birth-weight babies, as well as premature rupture of the membranes (your water breaks too early).
• Greater risk of other sexually transmitted infection
Women who have bacterial vaginosis are at greater risk of getting HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
• Increased risk of infection
Women who have bacterial vaginosis may be more likely to develop an infection after surgeries affecting the reproductive system, such as a hysterectomy or abortion.
Screening, Treatment, and Prevention Bacterial vaginosis is easily diagnosed using a sample of vaginal fluid, and is treated with a simple round of antibiotics. Antibiotics may be given orally, or in the form of a topical cream or ointment inserted in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis can recur, even after antibiotic treatment. It’s important to make sure you take all of the antibiotics as prescribed. And while it can’t always be prevented, you can reduce your risk of bacterial vaginosis and of spreading the infection by being in a monogamous relationship, as well as by using condoms. Avoid douching to help keep bacteria balanced in the vagina and reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Good hygiene can help prevent bacterial vaginosis.
Wash the anus and vagina every day, and wipe from front to back after urination or defecation. Wear cotton underwear and pants that fit loosely in the crotch to allow air flow and prevent moist conditions that can encourage infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is a very common infection, but some simple preventive steps can help reduce your risk. And women who do experience symptoms should remember to seek treatment right away to prevent unnecessary health problems caused by untreated bacterial vaginosis.