Bacterial vaginosis – Symptoms and causes

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Any woman can get bacterial vaginosis. Having bacterial vaginosis can increase your chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by excessive numbers of certain bacteria that change the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.

How common is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women 15 to 44 years of age.

How is bacterial vaginosis spread?
Researchers don’t know what causes bacterial vaginosis (BV) or how some women get it, but what we do know is that the infection commonly occurs in sexually active women. Bacterial vaginosis is associated with an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria, which are normally found in a woman’s vagina.

Having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, as well as douching, can upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina and put women at greater risk of contracting bacterial vaginosis.

We also don’t know how sexual intercourse contributes to bacterial vaginosis. There is no research to show whether or not a woman will contract this infection if her sexual partner is treated. Having bacterial vaginosis can increase the chance of getting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Bacterial vaginosis rarely affects women who have never had sexual intercourse.

People cannot get bacterial vaginosis from contact with toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools.

How can I avoid getting bacterial vaginosis?
Doctors and scientists don’t fully know how bacterial vaginosis spreads, and there are no known better ways to prevent it.

The following basic prevention measures can help reduce your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis:

Not having sex.
Limit the number of sexual partners.
Do not douche.
I’m pregnant. How does bacterial vagosis affect my baby?
Pregnant women can get bacterial vaginosis. If this happens, they are more likely to have their babies born prematurely (early) or with low birth weights than women who did not get bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. Low birth weight means giving birth to a baby who weighs less than 5.5 pounds when she is born.

Treatment is of particular importance for pregnant women .

How do I know if I have bacterial vaginosis?
Many women with bacterial vaginosis do not have symptoms. If you have symptoms, you may notice a thin, white or gray vaginal discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning from your vagina. Some women have a strong fishy odor, especially after having sex. You may also feel burning when you urinate or itching on the outside of your vagina, or both.

How will my doctor know if I have bacterial vaginosis?
The health care provider will examine your vagina for signs of vaginal discharge and take a sample of it for laboratory testing to determine if you have bacterial vaginosis.

Can bacterial vaginosis be cured?
Bacterial vaginosis sometimes goes away without treatment. But if you have symptoms of this condition, you should be examined and treated. It is important that you take all the medicines prescribed for you, even if your symptoms go away. A healthcare provider can treat bacterial vaginosis with antibiotics, but it can come back even after treatment. Treatment can also reduce the risk of contracting some sexually transmitted diseases.

Male sexual partners of women diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis usually do not need treatment. However, bacterial vaginosis can be passed between female sexual partners.

What happens if I don’t get treatment?
Bacterial vaginosis can cause some serious health problems such as:

You are more likely to get HIV if you have sex with a person who is infected with this virus.
If you have HIV, you are more likely to transmit HIV to your sexual partner.
If you have bacterial vaginosis when you are pregnant, you are more likely to deliver your baby much earlier.
Increased chance of contracting an STD such as chlamydia and gonorrhea . These bacteria can sometimes cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) , which can make it more difficult or impossible for you to have children.

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