Bacterial vaginosis (also called BV) is a bit of a chameleon. If you dive into research on it, you may walk away thinking you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but before you cut the break lines on your partner’s car let me clear things up: BV is not an STD. Now to make things fuzzy again, BV is a sexually related condition but women don’t have to be sexually active to get it. Virgins can get BV okay folks? So let’s not get all worked up.

Now that we have that cleared up—what exactly is BV?

It’s not complicated.  BV is a condition that only women can get and it causes the healthy bacteria inside the vagina to be overrun by unhealthy bacteria.  When the good bacteria can’t fight against the bad ones, symptoms may develop. Notice I said may develop—that’s because more often than not, women don’t have any symptoms of the condition and don’t even know they have it.  Some estimates say that about 25% of all women have bacterial vaginosis and those numbers are higher in some specific groups of women like those who are pregnant, or who have other medical conditions.

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

BV can produce symptoms that include:

  • Vaginal discharge (drainage) that is gray or white and thin
  • Occasionally there is a strong, fishy odor (but not always) and may be stronger after sex
  • Burning during urination
  • Itching around the opening of the vagina

How do we treat bacterial vaginosis?

BV can be treated with antibiotics. What’s tricky about treatment is that 1: we don’t know exactly what causes it so it’s hard to prevent it, and 2: it’s likely to return again.

Is bacterial vaginosis dangerous?

Not really as long as you are healthy. For pregnant women it can be a little trickier because any infection in the body when you are pregnant can trigger inflammation that could lead to premature labor. Sometimes the BV cells can move into the pelvis of women who are not pregnant and cause infections in the fallopian tubes or uterus and trigger a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, but this isn’t common.

If you think you may have BV, make an appointment with your doctor or with Dr. Hessel to find out for sure. Testing is simple. Your doctor will collect a little bit of fluid from your vagina on a swab and then examine it under a microscope to look for BV cells. If it’s there, your doctor will treat you properly.