Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common infection of the vagina that affects many thousands of women here in the UK every year. Many mild cases are not reported, so it’s difficult to estimate the exact number of women who suffer from BV, but it is believed by the medical fraternity to affect as many as 1 in 3 women at some time in their lives.
BV is not classed as an STI. In many instances symptoms are quite mild and can be treated without medication. In other instances, where the infection is more severe, it can be treated with proprietary medications that are available at specialist clinics like the women health clinic, a discrete, walk-in private clinic facility operated by Broadgate GP.
What Can Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
Every woman’s vagina contains a mixture of bacteria; some good, and some bad. These good and bad bacteria are kept in balance as part of a woman’s everyday bodily function. It is perfectly normal and perfectly healthy.
However, under certain circumstances, the normal healthy balance can be disturbed, and when the bad bacteria outweigh the good, a condition known as Bacterial Vaginosis can arise. The exact combination of bacteria varies in every instance. Why the balance is disturbed is unknown.
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What Increases The Chances Of BV?
Although the exact cause of BV remains unknown, there are certain things that could make an infection more likely. These include:
- Being sexually active. It should be noted, however, that women who are not sexually active also develop BV.
- Having a new sexual partner
- Having a past history of STI’s
- If you smoke cigarettes
- If you have been fitted with a coil
- If your family has Afro-Caribbean connections
- If you use a bubble bath
Reducing The Chance Of Bacterial Vaginosis
There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of BV, some of which are:
- Taking the contraceptive pill orally
- If any male partner, you have sexual intercourse with, has been circumcised
- If any male partner that you have sexual intercourse with, uses a condom
Common Symptoms Of Bacterial Vaginosis
The most common symptom of BV is a vaginal discharge. This discharge is usually greyish-white in colour and sometimes has an unpleasant, fishy smell which may be more noticeable during sex. This discharge has a tendency to be heaviest following a period, or having just indulged in sexual activity.
The discharge does not normally cause any irritation or tenderness around either the vagina, or the vulva (the external parts of the vagina). Up to 50% of women with BV do not present any symptoms at all.
How Bacterial Vaginosis Is Diagnosed
BV is normally diagnosed through the presence of an unpleasant smelling greyish-white discharge. Most doctors are prepared to give this diagnosis if you are in a long and stable sexual relationship with one trusted partner. There are, however, certain tests that can be carried out either by your doctor, or if you work in London, at the walk-in woman’s health clinic that Broadgate GO operates.
Testing The pH Level In Your Vagina
Discharge that appears with BV has a higher pH than any other type of discharge from the vagina. This can be tested with litmus or pH paper. You can carry out this test yourself, or ask the clinicians at Broadgate GP London to do the test for you.
Testing For Bacteria
To confirm a BV infection, a sample of discharge can be taken from the inside of your vagina with a cotton bud-like swab. This is then tested under a microscope for the presence of offending bacteria.
Pregnancy Complications With BV
There is a slight risk of some complications when pregnant women are suffering from BV. Although very rare, these complications can include:
- Giving Birth Early
- Having A Baby With Low Birth Weight
- Developing A Uterus Infection
Treatments For Bacterial Vaginosis
Mild cases of BV often self correct with time as the body naturally adjusts any anomaly in the pH balance. In more severe or repetitive cases, the usual treatment is by way of antibiotic pills taken orally. The most common antibiotic prescribed is Metronidazole.
A course of 400 to 500 mg twice per day is recommended, to be taken over a period of between five and seven days. It is recommended that you do not drink alcohol while taking this medication until at least 48 hours after stopping the treatment.