bacterial vaginosis wording on black background with stethoscope, syringe and pills
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Have you caught a whiff of something fishy? It might be Bacterial Vaginosis. Here we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment of the infection.

How do you get Bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is not an infection caught from your partner; it is due to an upset of the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. While it’s not a dangerous infection, it can cause disturbing symptoms.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance in the bacteria in the vagina. All women have harmless bacteria in their vaginal passage. With bacterial vaginosis (BV), some of the bacteria multiply so that more are present than is normal (Gardnerella and Mobiluncus bacteria are the usual culprits).

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What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The main symptom is a fishy smell in the genital area, which may become worse after sex and during your period. There is usually an abnormal discharge, which is watery and greyish-white in colour. BV does not cause soreness or irritation – any soreness or irritation can be due to a candida infection. Many women with BV actually could have no symptoms at all and it’s sometimes only picked up with a routine pap smear. If untreated, BV may possibly increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the Fallopian tubes that lead from the ovaries to the uterus.

What are the risk factors for and causes of bacterial vaginosis?

Any woman can get BV, but there are certain things that can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina that increase your risk of developing Bacterial Vaginosis:

  • Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
  • Vaginal douching
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Not using a condom

Although sexual activity can increase the risk of developing BV, it can occur in women who have never had vaginal intercourse. It is important to know that Bacterial Vaginosis is not thought to be a sexually transmitted infection.

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How is Bacterial Vaginosis treated?

Treatment for BV consists of antibiotics that are routinely used. Metronidazole (Flagyl) taken by either oral (pill) form or by vaginal gel (Metrogel) is an effective treatment. Also available is the vaginal clindamycin cream (Cleocin). The oral metronidazole can cause some minor but unpleasant side effects and should never be taken with alcohol. Metronidazole cures the problem in 90% of women.

The original version of this article can be found on our expert Dr Jireh Serfontein’s blog.

Dr Jireh Serfontein babyyumyum expert
I’m passionate about all aspects of sexual health and offer a wide range of sexual health-related services. HIV management, STI management, contraception, painful sex, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are some of my special interests.