Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common infection that is a result of a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. Roughly 30% of women will experience BV at some point in their lives.
Although it can be triggered by sex and is more common in women who are sexually active, it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease. You can get BV without having sex at all.
Keep reading to find out the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis so you can recognise if you may require treatment for it.
Bacterial vaginosis is often the cause of abnormal vaginal discharge.
It is normal to have vaginal discharge, even daily. It's one way your body helps to keep your vagina clean and healthy.
However, sometimes your discharge can indicate that something is off. The following table shows some differences between normal, healthy discharge and abnormal discharge:
|Normal discharge||Abnormal discharge|
If you are concerned about your vaginal discharge, you may have a mild fungal or bacterial infection.
Bacterial vaginosis discharge:
You might also experience vaginal itching, or burning during urination - however, these symptoms are less common.
Abdominal cramping is another potential symptom of bacterial vaginosis, but it is not common.
If you are experiencing cramps it could just be due to your menstrual cycle or gastrointestinal issues like constipation or a stomach virus.
More than half of bacterial vaginosis cases do not present with any symptoms. In one study, this figure was as high as 84%.
Because BV is easily spread during sexual contact, it is always best to get screened at a sexual health clinic after having unprotected sex with a new partner.
Having BV unknowingly increases your risk of developing STIs such as chlamydia and herpes, or other health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Men cannot get BV, although they can develop similar conditions such as male thrush.
However, unpleasant penis smells (especially fishy odours) are normally an indication of another type of infection.
Consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing symptoms similar to BV such as unusual discharge or odour.
In some cases, mild bacterial vaginosis infections go away by themselves.
Although you could choose to wait and see if your body fights off the infection, leaving it untreated may allow the infection to worsen.
Alternatively, your body might seemingly clear the infection only for your BV to return again shortly.
If you notice symptoms of BV, getting treatment is the most effective and quickest way of clearing it for certain.
Another common condition caused by an imbalance in the vagina is thrush, also known as a yeast infection.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your symptoms point towards BV or thrush.
Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida and is sometimes confused with BV. The main symptoms of thrush include:
It is important to tell the difference between thrush and BV symptoms to prevent taking the wrong treatment. Because one condition is fungal and one is bacterial, they require different types of medication.
The following table compares BV with thrush to inform you of their differences and guide you towards a diagnosis.
|Type of infection:||Bacterial||Fungal|
|Can it be triggered by sex?|
|Is it a sexually transmitted infection?|
|Does it cause thin discharge?|
|Does it cause thick discharge?|
|Can it cause burning when urinating?|
|Can it cause burning during or after sex?|
|Can it be symptomless?|
|Does it cause a ‘fishy’ odour?|
|Can it cause redness and swelling on the vulva?|
Pregnant women are more prone to BV due to hormone changes that take place during pregnancy.
The symptoms are the same for pregnant women as for those who are not pregnant.
If you suspect bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. This is because BV can increase the risk of a premature birth, or a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds).
Antibiotic treatment for BV should be safe to take during your pregnancy, however, always check with your doctor before taking anything.
With treatment, your infection should clear in 5-7 days. It is likely that your symptoms will clear even sooner than this - however, always finish the full course of antibiotics to ensure your BV doesn’t return.
You can purchase treatment for BV here at euroClinix. Go to our bacterial vaginosis page to begin your online consultation and place your order.
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