What You Should Know About Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very uncomfortable condition that women may develop. It's not always preventable, but there are ways to lower your risks of contracting it. In this article, we'll look at how you can do just that.
A healthy vagina always has bacteria. However, bacterial vaginosis happens when there’s an imbalance or change in the types of bacteria that are present in the vagina.
Usually, the most common healthy bacteria in the vagina is the lactobacillus strain. However, if bacterial vaginosis develops, it paves the way for undesired bacteria to proliferate, causing the lactobacillus to grow excessively.
Due to the overgrowth, irritating symptoms like abnormal whitish, grayish, or yellowish vaginal discharge, and a very strong, foul odor can start to appear.
Bacterial vaginosis is a very uncomfortable condition.
But, it’s not a venereal disease or a sexually transmitted infection. It can, however, lead to a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
More importantly, bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection that usually affects women of childbearing age. It’s also more common in younger women.
Furthermore, young women who have never had sexual intercourse can also develop BV.
In addition, it’s an infection that is often associated with pregnancies. Pregnant women can contract bacterial vaginosis.
When this happens, it’s more likely that the baby will be born premature or with a low birth weight. A low birth weight means the baby will be born weighing less than 5.5 pounds.
The most common bacteria found in the vagina is called gardnerella vaginalis. Usually, the vagina hosts many good and healthy bacteria with a small amount of potentially harmful ones.
But, the balance can be affected by:
- Vaginal douching
- Vaginal deodorants
- Using irritating products
- A new sexual partner or many sexual partners
- Using intimate hygiene products indiscriminately
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
- Tight-fitting underwear
- Not washing oneself adequately after sexual relations
- Lack of hygiene
- A sexually transmitted infection
- A change in the pH of your intimate body parts
You must also keep in mind the following aspects:
- If you wash your vagina excessively, you can kill its vaginal flora. Because of this, your vagina can become vulnerable to viruses, which lead to foul odors.
- Bacterial vaginosis cannot be contracted from sheets, toilet seats, towels, or pool water.
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis
Not everyone with bacterial vaginosis will develop symptoms, which is why some people don’t even know they have it. Oftentimes, symptoms come and go, and they are so minor that people don’t realize they’ve developed it.
Below are the two most common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis:
1. Whitish or grayish vaginal discharge
When you have bacterial vaginosis, you can have a white or grayish vaginal discharge. The discharge may be very heavy or come as a trickle.
2. Foul vaginal odor
It’s common for this vaginal discharge to have a foul, fishy odor. In most cases, this odor is practically unnoticeable but in other cases, the odor can be quite strong, especially after sexual intercourse.
- Pain when urinating
- Vaginal itch or stinging
Preventing bacterial vaginosis
It’s not always possible to prevent bacterial vaginosis. However, you can do the following to reduce your chances of developing it:
- Eat a proper diet and take on a healthy lifestyle
- Quit smoking
- Abstain from sexual relations
- Do not use vaginal douches
- Reduce your number of sexual partners
- Use condoms during intercourse
- Avoid bubble baths, feminine hygiene sprays, and perfumes for that area
- Wipe from front to back after urinating to avoid spreading any bacteria from the rectum
Tests that diagnose bacterial vaginosis
The most common exam used to diagnose BV is an analysis of a sample of cervical or vaginal discharge in a laboratory. Overall, the test shows how different bacteria are growing, especially gardnerella vaginalis.
In addition, there are other exams that pinpoint the exact cause to confirm the diagnosis. One of the exams includes an analysis of the vagina’s acidity levels, since changes in vaginal pH can alter the vagina’s bacterial balance and lead to BV.
The use of a test is critical, especially in pregnant women.
The following treatment is for symptoms that have subsided.
The most common way to treat BV is with antibiotics. For many women, this treatment is effective. However, it can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting. Drinking alcohol with antibiotics can lead to more severe side effects.
In addition, another common treatment is personal hygiene products. Most of these products restore the vagina’s pH levels.
Also make sure to use natural products that treat bacterial vaginosis and restore vaginal flora, helping to prevent future infections.
Helpful tips to prevent or avoid a BV recurrence
- The vagina has natural cleaning mechanisms. Thus, it’s not necessary to use water and soap every time you freshen up.
- Washing the vaginal area with water and a mild soap once a day is enough.
- Avoid the excessive use of soap, scented oils, bubbles, antiseptics, and other chemical substances while taking a bath.
- Avoid strong detergents when washing your underwear.
Natural treatments for bacterial vaginosis
Treating BV with natural products can, in many cases, be the best course of action. Plus, they don’t cause side effects and are less costly than chemical treatments.
1. Apple cider vinegar
First of all, apple cider vinegar fights BV by increasing the vagina’s acidity levels. Overall, this causes harmful bacteria to die, thus restoring balanced pH levels.
- 2 cups (500 ml) of apple cider vinegar
- Water (595 liters/standard bathtub)
- First, add the apple vinegar to the bathwater.
- Then, soak in the bath for 20 minutes.
- After, gently pat dry your vaginal area with a towel.
- Repeat once a day until you feel better.
2. Plain yogurt
Plain yogurt is rich in probiotics, which work against harmful bacteria.
- Plain yogurt
- Cotton pad
- First, apply yogurt on the infected area with a cotton pad.
- Then, let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Finally, rinse it off.
- Repeat 3 times a day for best results.
3. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil also has antibacterial properties that fight bacteria, among other things. What’s more, its scent helps neutralize foul odors resulting from vaginal discharge.
- 5 drops (1/4 ml) of tea tree oil
- 1 cup (250 ml) of warm water
- First, in a bowl, mix the tea tree oil with the warm water.
- Then, splash the mixture over the vaginal area.
- Repeat every day for 3 to 4 weeks.
4. Coconut oil
Coconut oil boasts antibacterial properties. This is all because of its fatty acid content.
- A teaspoon of coconut oil
- 1 tampon
- First, soak the tampon in the coconut oil.
- Then, insert into the vagina and leave for 2 hours.
- After, rinse the area once you’ve finished.
- Repeat once a day.
Furthermore, you can add coconut oil to your diet every day to give your immune system an antibacterial boost.
5. Oregano oil
You can also use oregano oil to fight against the germs (bacteria) that cause bacterial vaginosis. Overall, it’s one of the best natural antibiotics in existence. Also, some studies have shown that oregano oil is effective against most strains of bacteria.
- 2-3 drops of oregano oil (0.20 ml)
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (15 ml)
- First, mix the oregano oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil.
- Then, apply the remedy to the vagina.
- Finally, let it sit for 2 hours.
- Repeat until symptoms of the bacterial infection improve.
Bacterial vaginosis can cause severe health problems, such as:
- A higher risk of contracting HIV from sexual intercourse with a person infected with HIV.
- If you have HIV, there’s a higher chance you’ll transmit it to your sexual partner.
- Finally, there’s a greater risk of contracting STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. The bacteria from BV can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can make it difficult or impossible to have children.