Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection resulting from an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. As harmful bacteria continue to grow, a woman may experience pain, odor, discharge, burning, or itching. In the US, BV is the most common vaginal infection and it often occurs among women of childbearing age. It is especially likely to occur in women who are pregnant.
There are many things that can cause an imbalance in vaginal bacteria. These include excessively cleaning the vagina (such as with douching, which can wipe out “good” bacteria), having sex with multiple partners, and neglecting personal hygiene.
BV is especially dangerous in pregnant women because it increases the likelihood of unforeseen complications. Approximately 1 in 3 women will have BV at some point during her lifetime, and 1.08 million pregnant women currently suffer from an infection.
The effects of bacterial vaginosis on delivery include premature birth, infection of the baby and low birth weight. Women who are infected with BV during their pregnancy are also more prone to other types of infection if a Cesarean section or other surgical procedure is needed.
Contracting BV can lead to post-pregnancy complications as well. After the baby is born, women with BV have a greater chance of ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.
Bacterial vaginosis cannot be transmitted to male partners, but the use of condoms can help to prevent infection in the first place. Treatment regimens usually include standard antibiotics and the avoidance of tampons and sexual contact. As with any antibiotic prescription, it is important to finish taking your medication even if symptoms seem to subside.
The precautions you can take to prevent BV are similar to those of yeast infections. Wash the outside of your vagina each day and try not to wear tight clothing or wet bathing suits for extended periods of time. Thong underwear often increases the risk of BV due to the fact that the cloth rubs between the anus and the vagina. Use condoms during sex and try to limit the number of partners you have.