Bacterial Vaginosis

Definition - What does Bacterial Vaginosis mean?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina caused by an overgrowth of the bad bacteria. It is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age, affecting about 21 million women in the United States. Although it most frequently follows sexual intercourse with a new partner, BV is not believed to be a sexually transmitted disease. In long-standing cases, BV can contribute to infertility due to inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes.

FertilitySmarts explains Bacterial Vaginosis

Factors that predispose a woman to BV include:

  • Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
  • Douching: Alters the bacterial population that inhabits the vagina; it fuels the growth of harmful bacteria while reducing the levels of good bugs.
  • Recent antibiotic use: Lowers the amount of healthy bacteria in the vagina
  • Wearing an intrauterine device

Women affected by BV may not experience any symptoms, or they may complain of the following symptoms:

  • A thin greyish or white vaginal discharge
  • A strong fish-like odor, which may be experienced only after sex
  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning during urination

In women with the above complains, the doctor performs a vaginal examination and sends a sample of vaginal discharge to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis of BV.

The mainstay of treatment for BV is an antibiotic course with metronidazole.

If left untreated, BV may lead to serious complications as follows:

  • Endometritis: Inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus
  • Salpingitis: Inflammation of the fallopian tubes or other types of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Infertility: Development of PID, scar formation, and pelvic adhesions can impair a woman’s ability to get pregnant
  • Complications related to pregnancy: Premature delivery or delivery before 42 weeks of pregnancy, low birth weight baby, infection of the coverings of the fetus – a condition called chorioamnionitis
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV
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