Even the slightest bit of vaginal discomfort can be alarming. Have you been feeling irritated, itchy, and as if your vagina is sore? Take a deep breath because chances are, you have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), also commonly known as a Yeast Infection or Bacterial Infection.
However, you must know that you are not in this alone. It is a widespread health issue among women of childbearing age. 1.4 million women in the United States seek medical advice about bacterial vaginosis every year.
You do not have to worry, as mild to moderate bacterial infection treatment and prevention is available to keep your vagina balanced, clean, and healthy in the long term. But, if your infection persists or feels extreme, you may need to visit the doctor.
Read on ahead to learn:
- What is the difference between a vagina and a vulva?
- What symptoms to be wary of when it comes to Bacterial Vaginosis?
- What causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
- What are the risks and complications involved?
- How to prevent it?
- And tips to keep your vagina healthy.
Vagina vs Vulva
Before we dive into the nitty gritty details of vaginal health, we must know what it is. Surprisingly, many women are confused about their two different genitalia.
The vulva surrounds and creates protection for your external genitalia, which includes your clitoris, pubic mound, labia, vaginal opening, urinary opening, and urethra.
The Vagina is the canal that connects the vulva to the cervix, leading up to the uterus. It is where women menstruate and give birth from.
Now that we have gotten our terminologies straight, let’s understand what the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Symptoms
Bacterial Vaginosis is a bacterial infection of the vagina. Your vagina balances good bacteria (lactobacilli) and harmful bacteria (anaerobes). Bacterial vaginosis occurs because of the outgrowth of harmful bacteria — disrupting the natural balance. It is one of the most common causes of unusual vaginal discharge.
Signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include:
- A watery, white, gray, or green vaginal discharge
- A foul, strong “fish-like” smell, often after sexual intercourse
- Pain, itching, or irritation in or around the vaginal canal
- Burning sensation when urination
Some women may have no signs and symptoms during bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Causes
Researchers are still unsure about the reason behind this unbalance, but the following could be some of the reasons:
- Having a sexual relationship with more than one partner.
- Having sexual intercourse with the same sex partner.
- Douching — vagina has a self-cleansing mechanism and douching disrupts the natural balance of the microorganisms.
- The vagina naturally lacks the good bacteria lactobacilli.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Risks and Complications
Generally, bacterial infections do not involve risks or complications. However, extreme cases may lead to:
- Women with bacterial vaginosis may give preterm birth and have underweight babies.
- Women with bacterial vaginosis are more susceptible to STDS, such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes simplex virus.
- With bacterial vaginosis, the chances of passing your HIV to your partner increase.
- You are at a higher risk of infection post-gynecologic surgery.
- You are at a higher risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which causes infection of the fallopian tubes and uterus, leading to infertility.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Prevention
If you are wondering “how I can treat my BV without antibiotics”, you may have heard, prevention is better than cure. So, to prevent bacterial vaginosis from happening, you must:
- Avoid vaginal irritants such as strong soaps and fragranced pads or tampons.
- Stop douching. Your vagina does not need it; regular bathing is enough to keep it clean. Do not use it as means to treat a vaginal infection.
- Use condoms while having sexual intercourse, and abstain from unsafe sex with multiple sexual partners.
How to Stay Healthy “Down There”?
Understanding your body is essential. You need to know what works and doesn’t work for you. You can take care of your vaginal health at home without worrying too much, and it’s not as hard as you may think. In case of irregularities, you can consult with your OB-GYN.
Despite misinformation, understand that the vagina is self-cleaning and requires no internal cleansing. You need to maintain a clean and healthy area surrounding it.
Let’s walk through the basics of keeping optimal vulvovaginal health.
Below, we outline some tips for healthy hygiene practices for optimal vulva and vaginal health, but first, let’s walk through the basics.
- Please keep it clean by washing it with gentle soap and using your fingers instead of a loofah or a washcloth.
- Do not over-wash your vaginal, as it may disrupt your pH levels.
- Do not insert any vaginal cleaning products inside the vagina.
- Scented products often irritate; avoid using them.
- After using the toilet, wipe and wash the front first and then the back. Doing the opposite can cause infections.
Safe and Clean Sex
- The vulva is the center of sexual pleasure, so you must protect it from bacteria and harmful chemicals.
- Check lubricant ingredients and avoid unhealthy ones that may reduce your pH balance.
- Use condoms.
- Avoid condoms with harmful ingredients.
- Change condoms after each session, especially after anal.
- Do not forget to wash your vulvovaginal area after sex.
- Take an after-sex shower, and dry up the area after.
Avoid Harmful Ingredients
- Petroleum products
- Non-natural oils
What to Wear
- Wear clothing that keeps your area dry and breathable.
- Clothing that traps moisture can lead to bacterial vaginosis or infections.
- Instead of silk or polyester, wear cotton underwear.
- Wear loose, boy shorts instead of tight-fitting clothes.
- Avoid thongs as they build a Bridgeway for fecal matter to reach your vagina.
- Change and shower after workouts.
- Change damp clothing such as swimsuits.
- Change clothing if you have heavy vaginal discharge.
- Do not wear underwear when sleeping, as it may trap moisture and create a breeding ground for infections.
- It is up to you to keep your pubic hair or to shave it off. But it is essential to keep the area clean, regardless.
- Avoid using scented shaving creams with irritants.
- You can opt for hair removal methods such as laser, waxing, or trimming.
Does bacterial vaginosis need to be treated? Yes. Women need to take care of their vaginal health. You should always be careful and notice any changes around your vaginal area. We hope our article helps as it covers all the signs, symptoms, causes, and prevention of bacterial vaginosis. Moreover, we also added some tips for you!