What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by an imbalance in the normal bacteria that reside in the vagina. Normally, the vagina contains a delicate balance of different types of bacteria, including both good and harmful bacteria. However, in the case of BV, the harmful bacteria outnumber the beneficial bacteria leading to overgrowth and disruption of the vaginal ecosystem.
How Common Is BV?
BV is quite common and affects a significant number of people. It is estimated that about 30% of people with vaginas in their reproductive years' experience BV at some point. It is more prevalent in people of childbearing age, particularly those who are sexually active. While BV can occur in people who have never had sexual intercourse, certain factors increase the risk, such as having multiple sexual partners, douching, and using intrauterine devices (IUDs) for contraception.
The symptoms of BV can vary from person to person. For some, they may experience no symptoms. However, common signs and symptoms include:
Thin, Grayish-White Vaginal Discharge
BV often causes a watery discharge that may be gray or white. The discharge may have a fishy odor, particularly after sexual intercourse or during menstruation.
A strong, unpleasant odor is a symptom of BV. The odor is usually more noticeable after sexual activity or during menstruation.
Vaginal Itching and Irritation
BV can cause itching and irritation in the vaginal area, leading to discomfort.
A burning sensation during urination.
It is important to note that these symptoms can be similar to other vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so it is essential to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.
How Orchyd MD™ Can Help
Orchyd MD™, our telemedicine feature in the Orchyd app, is here to help you. Users can connect with healthcare providers to receive medical advice and suggestions for the next steps on how to treat BV. You can discuss symptoms, share information, and receive professional advice through secure chat consultation. Orchyd MD™ costs $29 for one visit, and no insurance is needed. Compared to the average co-pay, which can cost anywhere from $35 to $70, Orchyd MD™ is affordable and saves time.
Instead of browsing the internet and self-diagnosing, you can privately chat with a certified healthcare professional and receive clarity on how your body is doing and the next steps you need to take to heal.
When To See An Doctor
Chat with a doctor through Orchyd MD™ or make an appointment with your regular provider if you experience any of the following:
If you notice an unusual odor from your vaginal discharge accompanied by discomfort or irritation
If you have previously experienced vaginal infections but find that your current discharge appears different or unusual
If you have recently engaged in sexual activity with a new partner or multiple partners, it is important to note that symptoms of STIs can sometimes overlap with those of BV.
If you suspected a yeast infection and attempted self-treatment but still experience persistent symptoms.
You can receive proper diagnosis and guidance by seeking medical attention in these situations, ensuring effective management of your symptoms, and addressing any potential underlying issues.
The exact cause of BV is not fully understood, but certain factors contribute to its development.
Imbalance of Vaginal Bacteria
BV occurs when there is an imbalance in the natural levels of bacteria in the vagina, known as vaginal flora. The vaginal flora consists of both "good" and "bad" bacteria, with the "good" bacteria, lactobacilli, playing a crucial role in maintaining vaginal health. Normally, the presence of lactobacilli outweighs the "bad" bacteria, known as anaerobes. However, an overgrowth of anaerobes disrupts the balance of the vaginal flora, leading to the development of BV.
Engaging in sexual activity, especially with multiple partners, increases the risk of BV. However, BV can also occur in people who have never had sexual intercourse.
Vaginal douching, which involves rinsing the vagina with water or other solutions, can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and increase the likelihood of BV.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
People who use IUDs for contraception may have a slightly higher risk of developing BV.
BV can be effectively treated with various treatment options, including:
The primary treatment for BV involves the use of antibiotics. Oral antibiotics like metronidazole or clindamycin and topical antibiotics in the form of vaginal gels or creams are commonly prescribed. These medications help restore the balance of bacteria in the vagina by reducing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be taken orally or inserted vaginally to help replenish the healthy bacteria in the vagina. They can help restore the natural balance of the vaginal flora and reduce the risk of recurrent BV.
Risks of No Treatment
If left untreated, BV can lead to various complications, including:
Increased Risk of Other Infections
BV can make the vaginal tissues more susceptible to other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
BV can increase the risk of developing PID, an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID can cause severe pelvic pain, infertility, and other complications.
Pregnant people with BV have a higher risk of preterm birth (giving birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy), premature rupture of membranes (the amniotic sac breaking before labor), and postpartum infections.
BV can increase the risk of postoperative infections after gynecological procedures such as hysterectomy or abortion.
Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment of BV can help prevent these complications. If you suspect you have BV, chat with a doctor through Orchyd MD™ or make an appointment with your regular provider.
While it is not always possible to prevent BV, there are specific measures that can help reduce the risk of developing it:
Practice Good Hygiene
Wash the genital area with mild soap and water, and avoid harsh or scented products that can disrupt the vaginal flora.
Douching can disturb the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, so it is best to avoid this practice.
Practice Safe Sex
Practicing safe sex by using condoms can help prevent the transfer of bacteria and reduce the risk of BV.
Avoid Excessive Moisture
Wearing breathable cotton underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothing can help prevent excess moisture buildup, which can contribute to bacterial overgrowth.
Practice Hygiene During Menstruation
Change tampons or pads regularly during menstruation. SafeFlow™, in the Orchyd app, reminds you when to take out or exchange your products, helping to avoid infection and overflow. Each product has a suggested time limit determined by a team of OB-GYNs, helping keep you safe throughout your flow. In addition, consider using unscented and hypoallergenic products, like the Orchyd Menstrual Cup, to minimize irritation.
Now you know everything you need to know about BV; what it is, what to look out for, when to talk to a doctor, and how to take preventative measures. You are more fully equipped to monitor your body and understand what is happening. And if you still feel unsure, you have Orchyd MD™ in your pocket for certified advice.