Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition caused by changes in the number of certain types of bacteria in your vagina. BV is common, and any woman can get it. BV is easily treatable with medicine from your doctor or nurse. If left untreated, it can raise your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cause problems during pregnancy.
Who Gets Bacterial Vaginosis
BV is the most common vaginal condition in women ages 15 to 44. But women of any age can get it, even if they have never had sex.
You may be more at risk for BV if you:
- Have a new sexual partner or have multiple sexual partners
- Are pregnant. BV is common during pregnancy. About 1 in 4 pregnant women get BV.
- Are African-American. BV is twice as common in African-American women as in white women.
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD), especially if you also have irregular bleeding.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
Many women have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Unusual vaginal discharge. The discharge can be white (milky) or gray. It may also be foamy or watery. Some women report a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex.
- Burning when urinating
- Itching around the outside of the vagina
- Vaginal irritation
These symptoms may be like vaginal yeast infections and other health problems. Only your doctor or nurse can tell you for sure whether you have BV.
What is the difference between BV and a vaginal yeast infection?
BV and vaginal yeast infections are both common causes of vaginal discharge. They have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to know if you have BV or a yeast infection. Only your doctor or nurse can tell you for sure if you have BV.
With BV, your discharge may be white or gray but may also have a fishy smell. Discharge from a yeast infection may also be white or gray but may look like cottage cheese.
Treatments for BV and vaginal yeast infections differ. Doctors treat BV with antibiotics, while the recommended treatment for yeast infections with over-the-counter medicines. However, you cannot treat BV with over-the-counter yeast infection medicine.
What Can Happen if BV is not Treated?
If BV is untreated, possible problems may include:
- Higher risk of getting STIs, including HIV. Having BV can raise your risk of getting HIV, genital herpes, chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, and gonorrhea. Women with HIV who get BV are also more likely to pass HIV to a male sexual partner.
- Pregnancy problems. BV can lead to premature birth or a low-birth-weight baby (smaller than 5.5 pounds at birth). All pregnant women with symptoms of BV should be tested and treated if they have it.
What Should You Do if You Think You Have Bacterial Vaginosis:
- See a doctor or nurse. Antibiotics will treat BV.
- Take all your medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all the antibiotics.
- Tell your sexual partner(s); if she is female so, she can be treated.
- Avoid sexual contact until you finish your treatment.
- See your doctor or nurse again if you have symptoms that don’t go away within a few days after finishing the antibiotic.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, contact us at 479.582.9268 to schedule an appointment.
Center for Disease Control – https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
Office on Women’s Health – https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bacterial-vaginosis