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What is Bacterial Vaginosis? The Causes and Risk Factors

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the United States, about 21.2 million women, or 29.2 percent, have bacterial vaginosis.

It is the most common type of vaginal infection among women of childbearing age, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This type of infection results from an overgrowth of bacteria in a woman’s vagina. The bacteria in the vagina can be divided into the two groups, lactobacilli and some harmful bacteria called anaerobes.

When there are too many anaerobes in the vagina, compared to the “good” bacteria lactobacilli, bacterial vaginosis can occur, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Why an overgrowth of anaerobes occurs is not completely known. But participating in certain activities can make it more likely for bacterial vaginosis to occur.

Certain sexual practices can increase a woman’s risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. For example, having multiple sexual partners or having a new sexual partner can increase the risk of getting bacterial vaginosis.

The reason for this increased risk is not completely clear. However, the infection is more common among women who are sexually active, noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sexual intercourse is not the only risk factor for bacterial vaginosis, as women who have never had sex may develop the infection. Birth control and genital hygiene can also affect a woman’s risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.

Douching may increase a woman’s risk, as can using an intrauterine device. But the lack of birth control may increase the risk as well. Not using a condom may make it more likely for a woman to develop bacterial vaginosis.

Some of the risk factors for bacterial vaginosis are genetic and cannot be controlled. For some women, their vaginas naturally do not produce enough lactobacilli bacteria.

As a result, they are at higher risk for having bacterial vaginosis. The MayoClinic.com added that black women have a higher risk for bacterial vaginosis than white women.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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