Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by a bacteria known as Gardnerella Vaginalis. Bacterial vaginosis typically occurs in women who are sexually active. Bacterial vaginosis very rarely occurs in a female who has never had sex. Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition affecting women age between 15-44. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an imbalance of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ bacteria in your vagina, leading to an overgrowth of the ‘bad’ bacteria. The ‘good’, protective bacteria such as Lactobacilli spp. are being outnumbered and are not able to maintain a healthy balance of natural disinfectant in the vagina.
Myths of Bacterial Vaginosis
You cannot acquire Bacterial Vaginosis from dirty toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
50-75% of affected women do not have any symptoms.
- Fishy smell vaginal odor (Odor may be worse around the time of menstruation, or after unprotected sexual intercourse)
- Thin, watery, grey-whitish vaginal discharge
- Itchy, painful, burning sensation in the vagina
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Painful urination
When should I consult a doctor, and what happens next?
Speak to your trusted doctor when you have:
- Periods that last more than 7 days
- Periods cycles that are less than 21 days apart
- Or other symptoms discussed above
Your doctor will take a thorough, relevant history, and perform an abdominal and pelvic examination. Depending on the individual, your doctor may offer further tests to assess the womb and ovaries structures.
What do I expect when I see my doctor for Bacterial Vaginosis?
Your doctor will enquire about further relevant history regarding your symptoms and sexual history. As part of the physical examination, your doctor will examine your abdomen and pelvis, including your vagina.
The diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis is made based on findings on your vaginal discharge. A swab sample of the abnormal discharge will be sent to the lab for further confirmation.
Diagnosis of Bacterial Vaginosis is based on 3 out of 4 positive findings on the Amsel’s criteria:
- pH>4.5 (Swab test)
- Clue cells (Swab test)
- Thin white discharge (Symptoms)
- Fishy odor discharge (Symptoms)
Will Bacterial Vaginosis Recur?
Unfortunately, it is a condition that can recur despite the completion of all treatment medications. Studies showed 30% of women who recover after treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis, can re-acquire Bacterial Vaginosis within 3 months, and more than 50% of treated ladies will recur in 12 months. The actual reason remains unknown. Speak to your doctor in the case of recurrence; you may need to be treated for a more extended period.
Why should I treat Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infection affecting the uterus, cervix, fallopian tube, and ovaries. In the long term, this can be complicated with chronic pelvic or lower abdominal pain, increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, or even infertility.
If Bacterial Vaginosis occurs in a pregnant lady, there is a risk of premature delivery of the baby. Your baby will be at risk of low birth weight in comparison to women without BV.
The risk of acquiring another Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), including HIV is higher in women who have untreated Bacterial Vaginosis.