Among women in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49, about 21.2 million have had bacterial vaginosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A bacterial infection of the reproductive system, bacterial vaginosis occurs due to an imbalance between lactobacilli (good bacteria) and anaerobes (bad bacteria) in the vagina.
This imbalance can result in several different symptoms, including a foul smelling vaginal discharge, pain when engaging in intercourse, vaginal itching, and burning during urination.
However, the majority of women with bacterial vaginosis — 84 percent — do not report having any symptoms, noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Untreated bacterial vaginosis can result in complications, such as being more susceptible to sexually transmitted disease and developing pelvic inflammatory disease. Women who are pregnant and have bacterial vaginosis face additional complications, such as a higher risk of giving birth prematurely.
Women can take several precautions to reduce their risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. These tips for preventing bacterial vaginosis reduce the risk of causing an imbalance between the lactobacilli and anaerobes.
The first two tips suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are to limit your number of sexual partners or to be abstinent.
While the connection between bacterial vaginosis and sexual intercourse is not completely known, the infection occurs more frequently in women who engage in sexual intercourse with a new partner or multiple partners, noted the MayoClinic.com.
When engaging in sexual activity, use a barrier form of protection, such as a condom.
Nevertheless, sexual intercourse is not the only risk factor for bacterial vaginosis, as 18.8 percent of women who have bacterial vaginosis have never engaged in sexual intercourse — anal, vaginal or oral, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another tip for preventing bacterial vaginosis is to practice good hygiene in the genital region. For example, when using the bathroom, wipe from the vagina to the anus.