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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. When your body is introduced to bacteria that it is not used to or various, different bacteria at once, this changes your natural pH balance. This change in pH gives the vagina a fishy smell and often produces gray or white, watery discharge. When a woman comes in saying she has an excess of discharge with a smell that’s not right, it’s almost always BV. Today, I wanted to answer some of the most common questions and myths surrounding this infection that affects most women at least once in their lifetime.
Is it an STD/STI?
BV is NOT a sexually transmitted infection or disease. It's not something that passes from one person to another as it has to do with your own individual pH balance. Although BV is not a STI, you can develop it if you have a new or multiple sexual partners. This is because your vagina will be introduced to new bacteria that it is not familiar with. So if you develop a weird smell and/or abnormal discharge after being with a new partner, come in for an appointment with your provider and get tested first before assuming they gave you an STI. I've seen quite a few women break up with a new partner over BV simply due to not fully understanding what it is and how it is caused.
Should I douche if I have it?
If you don't learn anything else from my blog, please learn that you should NEVER douche! This only knocks of your natural pH even more and makes your symptoms worse. There is absolutely no benefit to douching. It will not treat BV, nor will it prevent it.
So how can I prevent it?
You can prevent BV similar to how you prevent a yeast infection, such as using probiotics, not douching, and using unscented soaps. It's important to use soaps without a fragrance because sometimes the chemical that gives it a scent can knock your pH off balance. I recommend DOVE but any unscented soap would be fine. It's also very important to not place soap inside the vagina as this can cause it to lose it's natural acidity. Only wash the outer area and use water.
Probiotics can be used daily and found in pill form or naturally in yogurt. You can also use prebiotic vaginal suppositories once a week. I more so recommend this for women who experience recurrent BV every month, even after doing other prevention methods. Since the vaginal prebiotics are placed in the vagina, they provide targeted rebalancing.
Other ways to prevent BV are by changing pads/tampons/liners often, changing out of wet clothes quickly, using a liner and changing them every 2 hours if you sweat a lot, and limiting the number of sexual partners.
How can it be treated?
For BV that occurs sporadically, it can be treated with a course of antibiotics, administered either orally or vaginally. The most common pill is called Flagyl and the vaginal suppository is either Clindesse or Nuvessa. Another treatment I advise for recurrent infections is boric acid suppositories. These can be made in special pharmacies, so check with your healthcare provider. You can also try these here.
If there are any other questions you have about BV, feel free to leave them below or contact me directly.
xoxo, Global Midwife
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, only education. Always check with your healthcare provider. I may make a small commission on some of the items linked on this page through affiliate links/codes.