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What is Bacteria Vaginosis by Angela Davidson

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Bacteria Vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina that is caused by excessive growth of bad bacteria in the vagina. Sometimes with BV, there will be a discharge, a foul odor, itching, burning, and pain.

The cause of BV is not really known or understood and is sometimes misdiagnosed.  When a woman has BV her normal ph balance in the vagina is unbalanced. In other words, a woman has too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria in the vagina. The vagina normally has more good bacteria than bad bacteria.

Bacteria Vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and any woman can get BV. However, having sex with a new person or different people or even douching can cause a woman’s ph balance in the vagina to be unbalanced. It is not certain how having sexual intercourse plays a role in the development of BV because BV can also affect women who have never had sexual intercourse.

If a woman has a vaginal discharge and smells a foul fishy order, she should see her doctor because chances are she could have BV.  The fishy odor smell is even worse after having sexual intercourse. If there is a discharge, it will be gray, white, or yellow and can be thick or thin. There may be other symptoms, such as burning or itching around the outside of the vagina. Sometimes there will be no symptoms at all.

BV causes no serious complications initially, however, it can lead to other serious problems over the long term. For example, having BV can increase a woman’s chances of HIV infection. Also, BV increases her chances of contracting STDs, such as herpes, Chlamydia, or Gonorrhea. BV in pregnant women can lead to other complications, such as a miscarriage, premature delivery, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  BV is also known to increase in a woman after having a surgical procedure done such as a hysterectomy or an abortion.

Sometimes BV will clear up on its own. However, to be on the safe side all women should be treated so that there will be no other problems. The male sex partner does not need to be treated, but BV can spread between the female sex partners.

BV can be treated with antibiotics. The only two antibiotics are Metronidazole and Clindamycin. They come in pill form, cream, or capsules which can be inserted vaginally. After taking the antibiotics as prescribed, BV normally clears up in two to three days. In addition, keep in mind that BV can recur after treatment.

As stated before, BV is not completely understood nor is it understood exactly how to prevent it. However, there are ways to prevent or reduce the risk of upsetting the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina; be abstinent, do not have multiple sex partners, do not douche, wash the vagina daily with mild soap, when using the restroom wipe from front to back, wear cotton underwear, and avoid tight pants.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006.  MMWR 2006: 55 (No. RR-11)

Hillier S and Holmes K. Bacterial vaginosis. In: K. Holmes, P. Sparling, P. Mardh et al (eds). Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999, 563-586.



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