BV is a vaginal bacterial infection, commonly called BV. In a healthy vagina different types of “good” and “bad” bacteria naturally, coexist. Women run into trouble when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. BV is caused when there are more “bad” bacteria than good. Unfortunately, an imbalance of bacteria can happen quite easily, with BV being the most common vaginal infection for women between the ages of 14 and 2. But don’t let BV get you down, this article will be everything you need to know about BV, to keep your vagina happy healthy and in balance.
BV and yeast infections are both a type of vaginitis, but they're caused by different things. BV is a bacterial infection, and yeast infection is a fungal infection, caused by an overgrowth of yeast (AKA fungus).
BV versus UTI
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria enter and infect your urinary tract. Unlike BV, UTIs take place in your urinary tract (not your vagina) and are most often caused by E. coli. Although the infections are separate, there is evidence that indicates you're more likely to get repeat UTIs if you have BV, because the bacterial growth that comes with BV can trigger recurrent UTIs.
What causes BV?
A lot of things might cause BV. Anything that changes the pH of your vagina can affect bacteria levels and lead to BV. For example sex with a new partner, douching, or vaginal deodorants are all possible causes of BV.
Symptoms of BV
BV is not an SDI, UTI, or yeast infection. But with so many complications that can happen down there, how are you supposed to know if you have BV? While the only way to be 100% sure is to visit a doctor, the main symptom of BV is thin white or grey vaginal discharge with a strong fishy odor.
You may also experience itching or burning when you urinate, but itching and burning are symptoms more commonly associated with yeast infections or UTIs. It can be a bit confusing to tell one infection from another, so it is important to pay close attention to your symptoms. Are you producing discharge? What color is it? Does it have an odor? Are you experiencing any pain? UTIs don’t typically produce discharge and while yeast infections do the discharge is usually thicker, more cottage cheese-like with no odor.
Over-the-counter treatment for BV
The number one treatment for BV is antibiotics, but most of the time symptoms of BV are mild, and many people prefer to explore over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.
In some cases, however, it is important to know when you should seek a doctor. If you are pregnant, if there is blood in your discharge, fever, intense pain or if there is no improvement in symptoms after a week of home treatment.
Home Remedies for BV
Try probiotics. Probiotics encourage the body to grow the “good” bacteria that help fight off the “bad” bacteria. Eating foods full of probiotics like yogurt and/or taking a probiotic supplement might help your BV.
Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar may help balance the pH of your vagina. Mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water and rinse the vulva (external part of female genitals) 2 times a day.
Eat more garlic. Garlic is known to be an antibacterial. Incorporating it into your diet or taking a garlic supplement may help your BV.
Can you prevent BV?
Hygiene and BV. BV is not actually caused by poor hygiene. It is caused by an imbalance of bacteria. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, douching and using products like scented soaps or tampons can actually increase your risk of BV.
To keep yourself clean and reduce your risk of BV only wash inside of your vagina with water. Unscented soaps are okay to use on the vulva (outside). Keep your vaginal area dry. That means changing out of swimwear/gym clothes asap and wash your hands before touching yourself, especially when inserting items like tampons.
Lactobacillus can be your friend. The name may not sound friendly, and it’s obviously some kind of a bacteria, but it helps to keep your vagina leaning toward the acidic side. This prevents some other strains of not-so-friendly bacteria from growing, and that means there’s a lesser chance of developing BV. You’ve probably heard about the microbiome living in your gut and how it’s better to have more of the good bacteria than the bad ones; the same is true of the vagina. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and uti issues are all various types of infections, but maintaining a healthy population of good bacteria can help prevent BV.
BV is caused by several strains of bacterial pathogens which carry the potential to grow and become troublesome. Some of the species that can become troublemakers in large numbers include the following:
The friendly lactobacillus strains, as their name implies, produce lactic acid. This helps keep the growth of unfriendly vaginal bacteria in check and can prevent BV from developing. You may be wondering: do utis cause bacterial vaginosis? The answer is “no.” BV and UTIs are separate clinical issues and BVs are caused by specific species of bacteria which can create a vaginal discharge and a fishy odor.
You may instead be wondering: can bacterial vaginosis cause a uti? In this case, there is a connection. The first link is the increased colonization of potentially pathogenic bacteria in the vagina which can migrate to the urinary tract. The second factor is a more direct connection between BV and UTIs which was recently found by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They discovered that the Gardnerella vaginalis bacterium associated with BV was capable of damaging bladder wall cells after migrating out of the vagina. The damaged cells then enabled E. coli bacteria, which were already hiding in the bladder after a previous infection, to take root at the damaged spot and grow into another UTI.
Studies have shown that about half of the women who have developed cases of BV may not be aware of it. Bacterial vaginosis does not always exhibit its associated unpleasant and noticeable symptoms and it’s not uncommon for women with BV to be asymptomatic.
Because BV does not cause burning, difficulty in urination or itching, you may never know you had it and it can go away on its own. By virtue of the fact that BV is associated with a reduced population of the lactobacillus bacteria and the resulting lowered vaginal acidity, you may unknowingly restore the friendly lactic acid producing population by simply eating yogurt or other foods containing large amounts of probiotics.
Regular visits to your doctor to check for potential or existing uti and bv same time occurrences are a good way to help ensure that nothing unexpected shows up. It’s part of a healthy proactive approach that can help prevent pain and discomfort from intruding into your daily routines. Be sure to also look into the natural and non-prescribed preventive measures you can initiate on your own; they can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.