Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection that occurs due to an imbalance in the levels of normal vaginal bacteria. It is not a sexually transmitted disease, but women with more than one sex partner or changing partners tend to be affected more than others.
BV needs proper treatment, especially during pregnancy, to avoid premature delivery and miscarriage risks.
What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis, also called vaginitis or BV, is a vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacterial. This infection is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 44.
Bacterial vaginosis cannot be transmitted sexually, but is common in sexually active women. It rarely affects virgin women. Unlike an STI, bacterial vaginosis cannot be transmitted from any intimate physical contact or having unprotected sex with someone already infected.
However, if you have untreated bacterial vaginosis, you are at increased risk of contracting an STI. Therefore, it is recommended to treat the infection, especially when pregnant, to protect yourself and your baby.
The causes of bacterial vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by the excessive growth of certain bacteria in the vagina. Commonly occurring beneficial bacteria help fight other disease-causing bacteria in the vagina, but the chances of getting BV are high when the normal balance of bacteria is disturbed.
It is not yet clear why some people are more prone to bacterial vaginosis than others. However, some factors increase the developing risk of this infection, such as:
- Having new sex partners
- Having more sex partners
- Douching (using any liquid to wash the vagina)
- Race. African-American women are affected more than white women, though it’s unclear why.
- Using of an intrauterine device (IUD).
Effect of bacterial vaginosis on pregnancy
It is reported that more than a million pregnant women contract bacterial vaginosis every year. Half of the cases are resolved without any complication to the baby and the mother.
However, if the infection is undetected or left untreated, it increases pregnancy risks like:
- PPROM (preterm premature rupture of the membranes)
- Second-trimester miscarriage
- Postpartum endometriosis
- Low birthweight baby
- Preterm birth
When the baby has a low birth weight or is born prematurely, they are susceptible to more severe complications like infections, underdeveloped organs, brain hemorrhaging, jaundice, and lower Apgar scores. In addition, the earlier the baby is born, the more likely it will develop after-birth problems.
Bacterial vaginosis can also lead to PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), which affects the fallopian tube and uterus. PID can cause infertility.
Preventive measures for bacterial vaginosis
Pregnant women can prevent bacterial vaginosis by:
- Avoid further vaginal irritation
- Have sex less often. The chances of contracting BV when you have sex are higher than when you avoid it.
- Limit sexual partners.
- Use fragrance-free soaps. Use a gentle soap or just warm water to clean the outside of the vagina. Also, wipe from the front to back.
- Don’t douche.
What is the treatment for bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis can be treated with antibiotics. These typically come in two different forms: cream to insert in your vagina and pills to swallow. Regardless of the option, it is crucial to strictly follow your doctor’s instructions to get the best out of the medication.
Common antibiotics a doctor might prescribe include:
- Tinidazole like Tindamax (oral medication)
- Metronidazole like Metro gel-Vaginal and Flagyl, taken orally
- Clindamycin, like Clindesse and Cleocin, inserted into the vagina
These are the most effective treatment for bacterial vaginosis, but they can have severe side effects like vomiting, headaches, and nausea when taken with alcohol. So always consult your doctor about any side effects concerns. Bacterial vaginosis normally clears up within three days once you receive treatment. However, the course of antibiotics usually lasts for a week to ten days, so you should stop taking the medication only when the doctor says so.