Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – Causes, Risk Factors and Symptoms
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Any woman can get BV, however it occurs more frequently in sexually active women in their childbearing years. BV is NOT a sexually transmitted disease, but, if left untreated, it can lead to complications, including STI’s. Knowing what are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis will help you to get treated early on.
How does BV occur?
Under normal, healthy circumstances, the vagina has an abundance of “good” Lactobacilli bacteria which secrete lactic acid, creating an acidic environment that naturally prevents harmful pathogens from thriving and keeps infection at bay. However, when the number of Lactobacilli declines, this environment loses its acidity. It becomes more welcoming milieu for bacteria such as Gardnerella vaginalis ( and some strains of Prevotella and Morbiluncus), the bacteria that lead to BV.
What causes BV?
BV is caused by an imbalance of the vaginal flora (“Vaginal Dysbiosis”), usually caused by a change in pH of the slightly acidic vaginal environment. Routine activities such as douching, menstruation and even swimming can alter the vaginal pH enough to lead to BV. Unprotected sex is, however, the most common cause of BV, as semen is naturally alkaline and therefore compromises the acidic composition of the vaginal cavity. Not surprisingly, it is rare for a woman who is not sexually active to get BV.
In addition to the above, genetics may also play a role in a woman’s susceptibility to getting BV. Recent studies indicate that women with abnormal levels of Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH), the hormone regulating immunity and inflammation, are more likely to have imbalanced vaginal flora, which makes them more vulnerable to bacterial overgrowth and the development of BV.
What are the risk factors of getting BV?
Although any woman can get BV, those who are sexually active and of reproductive age are at increased risk. Additionally, certain lifestyle choices increase your risk of BV:
- Multiple or new sex partners
- Unprotected oral or vaginal sex
- Shared sex toys
What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
Most women with BV are asymptomatic. However, some common and more rare symptoms appear below. In the case of rare symptoms, these are most often a complication of untreated or uncontrolled BV.
Grayish white or yellow discharge
Vaginal discharge is common, but a change in color can indicate BV or another underlying condition.
BV discharge typically has a foul, “fishy” odor that worsens after sexual intercourse.
Itchy and sore vagina
Vaginal redness, itchiness and soreness, sometimes accompanied by mild swelling, can be a symptom of BV.
Vaginal bleeding – Bleeding can occur, most often after intercourse, if BV has infected the cervix and caused it to become inflamed.
Dyspareunia – Pain during sex. Though painful intercourse is commonly related to sexually transmitted disease, it can be a symptom of BV in rare cases.
Dysuria – Painful or difficult urination. Urinary tract infections in women usually cause painful or difficult urination with a burning sensation, but at times can be caused by BV.
When to see a doctor
Most complications from BV occur in individuals who experience symptoms. Should you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to follow up with your doctor as soon as possible. Seek immediate care if any of these symptoms are accompanied by fever, chills, body aches or abdominal pain, as this can indicate a more severe infection. Women who are pregnant and suspect BV should make an appointment with their OBGYN immediately. If treated early, your chances of a safe pregnancy are greatly improved.
How can probiotics help prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?
The benefit of probiotics on vaginal health and their ability to prevent BV is promising. Research shows that probiotic supplementation, especially when administered vaginally, is highly effective. By replenishing the “good” lactic acid-producing Lactobacilli bacteria, probiotics help the vaginal cavity maintain an acidic pH to keep harmful bacteria, such as those that cause BV, at bay.
VagiBiom, developed by Biom Pharmaceuticals, is committed to helping women live confident, fulfilling lives, free of conditions like BV, to enjoy life to the fullest! We invite you to learn more about VagiBiom and Biom’s other patented probiotic supplements now, so you can experience the freedom you deserve.
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