What causes bacterial vaginosis?

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis, often known as BV, is a common and treatable condition involving bacterial changes in your vagina. Changes to the balance in your vaginal microbiome can lead to further health problems, especially if you’re pregnant. What can you do to reduce the risk of getting BV? Let’s discuss the causes of BV, risk factors, symptoms, prevention methods, and treatments.

What is bacterial vaginosis?

You can get BV when the number of certain types of bacteria that exist inside your vagina change or fluctuate. This type of vaginal infection may develop when there are more harmful bacteria than beneficial bacteria in your vaginal microbiome.

BV is one of the more common causes of unusual vaginal discharge before menopause. Most who get BV are between the age of 15 and 44. Chances of BV may increase with sexual activity as it can be transmitted from person to person, but this doesn’t make the condition a sexually transmitted infection. It’s also possible to get BV multiple times throughout your lifetime.

Causes of BV

BV can be caused by a variety of things, including hormones, vaginal hygiene, and more. The condition is more likely if you’re sexually active, but you don’t have to be having sex for BV symptoms to develop.

You may be more likely to get BV if:

  • You have a new sexual partner or have multiple partners
  • You don’t use barrier contraceptive methods like condoms or dental dams
  • You’re pregnant (hormonal changes during this time can impact the bacterial microbiome in your vagina)
  • You douche or use vaginal deodorants (or any other potentially irritating products) that can disrupt the natural pH balance of your vagina
  • You smoke
  • You have an IUD

BV symptoms

You may not always have symptoms when you experience BV. Possible symptoms can include:

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  • Vaginal irritation or itching
  • A burning sensation when you pee
  • Discharge with a thin, watery, or foamy texture
  • Unusual discharge color (discharge may be white, dull gray, or greenish)
  • The odor of vaginal discharge is fishy and is usually stronger after sex and during your menstrual period

BV may increase your risk of other health problems, including:

  • Bacterial infection, particularly when you have surgery on reproductive organs like a hysterectomy while you have BV.
  • Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, herpes, or gonorrhea. BV can also make it easier to pass HIV to your partner.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) Having a premature baby or baby with a low birth weight
  • Reduced chances of success with fertility treatments like IVF

Symptoms of BV can be similar to those of other vaginal infections like yeast infections. You may be able to tell the difference between the two by their unusual discharge and the amount of vaginal irritation.

BV may cause discharge with a fishy odor, whereas you might have discharge that has a cottage cheese consistency (but no unusual odor) when dealing with a yeast infection. If you’re wondering whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are due to yeast infections or BV, you can use a Winx Health (formerly known as Stix) at-home vaginal pH test to determine the cause.

Prevention and treatment for BV

For diagnosis, your doctor will take a sample of vaginal discharge and have it examined for harmful bacteria. If you have BV, your primary care provider will prescribe antibiotics for treatment. You can take these antibiotics orally or as a topical cream. You may need to take antibiotics for up to 7 days. Since BV can be spread through sexual activity, avoid any sexual contact until you have completed your course of treatment and no longer have symptoms.

If antibiotics don't cure the infection, you may require another round of treatment. Be sure to finish the course of antibiotics, even if symptoms disappear before the end of your treatment. Stopping this early may lead to the infection coming back and creating resistance, and you may need to take antibiotics longer if this happens.

It’s important to note that other health issues can arise from leaving BV untreated. Failing to treat BV may put you at greater risk of getting sexually transmitted infections and can cause complications during pregnancy, too.

To lower your risk of getting BV, you can try:

  • Testing regularly for STIs
  • Asking your partners about their STI status
  • Using condoms for all sexual activity (vaginal, oral, and anal)
  • Cleaning sex toys after every use
  • Wiping front to back
  • Only using warm water when cleaning your vulva (the folds of skin surrounding your vaginal opening)
  • Avoiding douching or scented vaginal hygiene products
  • Wearing cotton underwear to reduce moisture as bacteria thrive in moist environments

Questions? We’re here for you, every step of the way. Reach out at hi@hellowinx.com to get started.

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