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Bacterial Vaginosis

Bad bacteria can run riot down below.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection that women get when bacteria in the vagina causes irritation. The vagina normally contains a lot of good bacteria and a small amount of bad bacteria. However, when a person develops BV, the bad bacteria take over and cause the symptoms of BV.

BV is not a true STI so you can get it without having sex. However, women who have a new sex partner or many different sex partners seem to be more at risk of getting it.

What are the symptoms?

  • You might have a strong, unpleasant vaginal smell. Many women say that the smell is worst after sex.
  • You might have an unusual vaginal discharge or liquid.
  • It might burn when you pee.
  • You might have itching around the vagina.
  • Many women do not have any symptoms.

What happens if you don’t treat it?

  • Untreated BV seems to increase your risk of getting HIV if you are exposed to someone who has it. It also seems to increase your risk of giving HIV to someone else.
  • It can cause complications during pregnancy and labour, such as: miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight for babies and pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • It can increase your risk of getting other STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes.
  • It can increase your chances of getting an infection after any gynaecological operation.

What treatment can you get?

  • Visit your doctor to have the infection diagnosed. Your doctor will diagnose bacterial vaginosis by asking about your symptoms, doing a pelvic exam and taking a sample of the vaginal discharge to be tested.
  • Try not to feel nervous about talking to your doctor, as they will have treated this many times before.
  • If you have BV they will probably prescribe a cream or antibiotics to clear the problem. You must take the entire course of medicine, even if your symptoms go away.

How can you prevent BV?

  • Using condoms is the best way to protect against BV through sexual intercourse. 
  • You cannot get it from toilets, swimming pools or bedding.
  • Some doctors also suggest that women should avoid using scented soaps/bubble baths or vaginal cleansing products.
  • Women who smoke and use an IUD also seem to be more at risk.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published February 18th, 2013
Last updated January 8th, 2015
Tags women's health sexual health stis sex
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