Bacterial Vaginosis

Authored by Dr Mary Lowth, 14 Dec 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Louise Newson, 14 Dec 2017

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very common condition caused by an overgrowth of normal germs (bacteria) in the vagina. This causes a change in the normal vaginal discharge, which may become more noticeable or develop a fishy smell.

Having a discharge from your vagina can be embarrassing and upsetting. However, it's a very common symptom, and most of the time it doesn't mean you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In women who are having periods, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of a vaginal discharge.

BV is a disturbance in the mix of bacteria in your vagina. Normally, we have a healthy mix of millions of 'friendly' germs (bacteria) in our bodies, including in the vagina - we rely on them being there and they are a part of what keeps us healthy. In BV, the balance of vaginal bacteria is altered. The type of bacteria called anaerobic bacteria increase in number, whilst another type, called lactobacilli, dies off. This disturbance in the bacteria makes the inside of the vagina slightly less acidic than usual. This slight reduction in acidity then encourages the growth of more anaerobic bacteria and fewer lactobacilli.

Although the changes of BV don't usually cause pain or itching, they do tend to cause a discharge which can smell stronger than usual. Sometimes it smells 'fishy', particularly after sexual intercourse. It can be watery and greyish in colour. This can be distressing and make women feel unclean. Some women then try to douche or wash themselves with soaps or perfumes - but this will only disturb the vagina more (because soaps are too alkaline for the inside of the vagina) and will make the problem worse.

It is not exactly known how common BV is. It is often so mild that women may not go to the doctor. It may be that as many as about 1 in 3 women have BV at some time in their lives.

Further reading and references

Hi, I'm new to this group but I'm hoping you guys can help. Did you have cramps/lower abdominal pain with your BV? I have awful cramping in my lower abdomen, soreness, achey, inflamed, swollen...

Allikat722
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