WHAT IS BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS?7

There is no need to be embarrassed about having this medical condition. Bacterial Vaginosis is not a sign of bad hygiene.
Any woman can be affected, regardless of age, lifestyle, career or other circumstances.

Despite the fact we all have one, most women don’t know much about the ins and outs of our vaginas. A vagina is similar to a little ecosystem with millions of
micro-organisms. Sometimes when our vaginas are out of balance, we start to experience unpleasant symptoms.

Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when there’s a change in the natural balance of bacteria in our vaginas. Healthy vaginas are slightly acidic, thanks to the presence of the strain of good bacteria called lactobacilli as they produce lactic acid and antimicrobials including hydrogen peroxide. Lactobacilli stop infection by providing a ‘protective layer’ and potentially damaging the bad bacteria which cause infection. Lactobacilli help keep our vaginas slightly acidic, which assists in maintaining the correct pH balance.8

However, if these are in short supply, and the pH balance is disturbed, our vaginas are invaded by harmful bacteria that may grow and trigger a Bacterial Vaginosis infection.8 It is completely natural to have some vaginal discharge. However, when the discharge changes and other symptoms arise, it could be a sign that our vaginas aren’t in their best health.

Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common of all vaginal conditions, affecting 1 in 3 women.11 The prevalence of Bacterial Vaginosis is twice that of thrush however in many cases Bacterial Vaginosis is often mistaken for Thrush. Although many of us know very little about it and keeping our vaginas in perfect balance isn’t always possible, it is really easy to detect and there are simple yet effective treatments available.

CAUSES, SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENTS8

VAGINAL DISCHARGE

INFLAMMATION I.E. SWELLING AND
PAIN
(VULVAR / VAGINAL AREAS)

MUSTY OR
“FISHY” SMELL

NORMAL

White or clear; floccular, not smooth, variable amount

BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS

White or grey, smoothly coats vaginal walls, often increased amount

May be associated with burning during urination or itching around the vulva or both9

CANDIDA VULVOVAGINITIS

White, “curd-like”, clumped, sometimes increased amount

Redness of vagina and vulva lining, dermatitis i.e. itching, redness, burning

Adapted from Ries AJ, 1997;9 CDC Fact Sheet10

WHAT CAUSES BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS
AND CAN IT BE AVOIDED?

It is not known why some of us get Bacterial Vaginosis more than others, but there are ways to avoid it:

During menstruation – progesterone levels drop, this could increase the risk of Bacterial Vaginosis (progesterone is a protective hormone for lactobacilli)13

Antibiotics/corticosteroids – may disrupt the normal good lactobacilli13

Excessive washing and douching – douching disturbs the natural balance and therefore can lead to the onset of the infection11

Perfumed/antiseptic soaps and oils – these items can trigger Bacterial Vaginosis8

Strong detergents or perfumes when washing underwear8

Sexual intercourse without a condom – semen is alkaline and can affect the vaginal pH balance, try using a condom if you experience Bacterial Vaginosis symptoms after sexual intercourse13

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF
BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS?3

For most women, Bacterial Vaginosis is easily treated and doesn’t cause any further complications. However, if it isn’t treated, there is a chance that Bacterial Vaginosis can trigger a variety of other problems such as:

Lower success rate in falling pregnant when going through IVF*

Premature birth, miscarriage and postpartum endometriosis (if Bacterial Vaginosis developed in early pregnancy)11

Higher risk of contracting an STI such as chlamydia – the change in the bacterial levels in your vagina reduces resistance