From a young age, ladies learn the basics of personal hygiene. Cleanliness is a concept that parents and teachers drummed into us every single day. You’re supposed to bathe, wear clean underwear, and more.
But, sometimes, things can go wrong for reasons beyond your control. Vaginal infections are an inconvenience we live with and manage. And some of the most common are yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Others, like herpes, are STIs that can pose a significant health risk. Our article will focus on bacterial vaginosis. We will explore what it is, its symptoms, and its risks. We will also dedicate a section on why you should not forego vaginosis treatment.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV); What Is It
The vagina is a marvel of nature if you think about it. We shall not get into a discussion of its functional attributes in this article. But, the fascinating part about it is how self-sufficient or self-regulating it is.
Allow us to explain. You see, the vagina has a way of keeping itself clean. This is due to a colony of bacteria that lives in it. That means all that douching may not have any value. Indeed, you could be causing more harm than good.
When good bacteria (lactobacilli) are at optimal levels, vaginal health will be excellent. But, sometimes, harmful bacteria (Gardnerella) can outgrow the good ones. That is when the problem comes in. And this problem presents in the form of bacterial vaginosis.
The reality is that BV is quite common, especially amongst black women. One out of three women will experience the condition. It tends to present between the ages of 15 to 44.
A BV CDC report on its prevalence in the United States showed some interesting results.
- Approximately 21.2 million, which represents 29.2% of women, have experienced BV
- 84% may have the condition but report no symptoms
- The number of sexual partners can increase the prevalence of BV. Indeed sexually active women are at a higher risk of BV
- BV infection rates amongst African American women was 51%. Mexican Americans and white women were at 32% and 23%, respectively.
In as much as we have made reference to sex activity, BV is not a sexually transmitted disease. Sexual activity only increases the chances of you developing the condition.
The most telling symptom of BV is a grey or white watery discharge with a fishy odor. The smell is easy to notice during menstruation or after intercourse.
Other symptoms include:-
- Itching pain or burning in and around the vagina
- A burning sensation when urinating
You can manage the symptoms with various over-the-counter medicines for genital herpes. The medication can help with the itching and intense burning that come with the symptoms. But, a trip to the doctor for a complete examination is always a wise idea.
What Happens If You Don’t Treat Bacterial Vaginosis?
The best advice we can give is to see a doctor. The healthcare provider will do the necessary tests. He will examine the discharge sample to determine the presence of BV.
Treatment for BV is as simple as taking a course of antibiotics. Within two or three days, you should start to find some relief. Do not, under any condition, stop the treatment because the symptoms are clearing up. Finish the entire antibiotic course; otherwise, you will develop resistance to future therapies.
The healthcare practitioner may also prescribe a suppository or gel to go with the meds. When taking the antibiotics, please avoid alcoholic beverages. Drinking can make you experience adverse reactions.
So, how long does bacterial vaginosis last if you don’t treat it?
Well, the truth is sometimes the condition will resolve itself without medication. But the risk is that you will become more susceptible to other health risks such as:-
- Higher chances of contracting STIs like gonorrhea HIV or chlamydia
- Increased risk of pelvic inflammatory diseases that can lead to infertility
- Low birth weight for premature delivery due to BV in pregnant women
- The chances of infections for any procedures involving the female organs. These include cesarean section or surgeries on the uterus or cervix.
Over-the-counter medications will only provide temporary relief for some of the symptoms. The creams and ointments can reduce the intensity of itching and burning. But they will not treat the root cause of the BV.
It’s also important to note that even if the antibiotic treatment worked, BV can recur after three months or so. In that case, the healthcare provider will recommend a course of treatment.
If you have a male sexual partner, he will not need to get treatment for BV. But the same does not apply to female partners. In such a case, both of you will need to take the relevant medication.
Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis
There isn’t much research that shows what causes an imbalance in the bacteria levels in the vagina. The inability to pinpoint the exact cause of BV makes it hard to know how to prevent it. But there are some things you can do to keep BV at bay. These include;-
- Practicing good personal hygiene. This is especially critical during your period. Do not stay too long with a tampon or pad
- Investing in breathable cotton underwear
- Allowing the vagina to self-cleanse instead of using methods like douching. You could destroy the good bacteria that can keep BV at bay every time you do
- Avoiding the chances of any fecal matter getting into the vagina. That means wiping from front to back instead of the other way around
- Keep away from scented, or very concentrated soaps. Mild, unscented options are the best
- Cleaning sex toys very well before using them
- Avoid having too many sexual partners and use a condom during coitus.
Bacterial vaginosis is one of the conditions many women have to deal with. The good news is that BV is easy to treat. Once you notice any symptoms, please get help from a healthcare provider. They will do the relevant tests and prescribe the right antibiotics to treat the condition.
BV can resolve on its own but not seeking treatment places you at greater risk of contracting STIs. We have also shared some things you can do to avoid BV. Personal hygiene, for instance, is critical and can help keep a healthy environment in your vagina.