Bacterial Vaginosis: What You Need To Know About Symptoms and Treatments

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common issue for women of childbearing age. It’s so common, in fact, that many women go through their lives experiencing symptoms without ever really understanding what they are dealing with. 

This can lead to unnecessary anxiety and stress and can also mean you might struggle with vaginal concerns that actually have simple solutions much longer than necessary. By demystifying BV, we hope to empower you with the knowledge to recognize the signs early and seek appropriate care. 

While bacterial vaginosis is generally a temporary discomfort that’s quickly and easily addressed, getting more comfortable with your vagina and its well-being will help you to take control of your wellness in the long term, too.

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis happens when there's an imbalance of the natural bacteria in your vagina. Normally, your vagina has a mix of both good and bad bacteria, with the good ones keeping things acidic and unfriendly to the bad ones. 

When these bad bacteria get the upper hand, it leads to BV, bringing noticeable symptoms like a thin, gray, or white discharge and a fishy odor, especially after sex. Some women also experience itching, soreness, or a burning sensation during urination. It's worth noting that not everyone shows symptoms, but those who do often find them quite bothersome. 

It’s not uncommon to confuse symptoms of BV with sexually transmitted infections. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and even herpes symptoms do have some crossover with what you may experience with a vaginal infection. While it’s possible for the hygiene of your sexual partner to lead to BV, it’s not an STD. 

The imbalance that leads to BV can be triggered by several factors, including unbalanced pH levels, excessive hygiene practices, unprotected sex, and even the use of IUDs. Understanding these triggers can help in managing and preventing BV, ensuring women can maintain a healthy vaginal environment and reduce their risk of recurrence.

Is It the Same as a Yeast Infection?

It's easy to confuse BV with yeast infections since both affect the same general area, but they're quite different. Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungus and come with thick, white discharge and significant itching. Conversely, BV is all about that bacterial imbalance and typically doesn't bring intense itching or cottage cheese-like discharge. 

Unlike yeast infections, which are usually treated with antifungal medications, BV requires antibiotics to restore bacterial balance. Understanding the distinct symptoms and treatments is crucial for proper care. 

When Should You See Your Doctor for BV?

If you’re noticing symptoms that could be BV, or if you’ve tried to manage them on your own and they’re not getting better, it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider. Getting the right diagnosis is key because treating BV needs specific antibiotics, and letting it go untreated can lead to more serious issues, including higher risks during pregnancy or increased susceptibility to STIs. 

It's especially important to seek medical advice if you experience repeated episodes of BV, as this can be a sign of a more complex underlying issue. Frequent infections could potentially affect reproductive health or even lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. 

A healthcare provider can offer a tailored treatment plan and may also investigate other health factors contributing to recurring infections. Consulting a professional ensures you receive a comprehensive approach to your treatment, addressing not just the symptoms but also any contributing factors.

How Do You Treat BV?

Doctors generally prescribe antibiotics for BV, either as pills or topical creams and gels. It's crucial to finish the full course prescribed, even if you start feeling better sooner. 

This ensures all the bad bacteria are gone and reduces the risk of the infection coming back. For women who get BV often, doctors might suggest a longer treatment plan to help keep it from returning. 

In addition to antibiotics, your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes or over-the-counter products that help maintain vaginal flora and pH balance. For instance, probiotics containing Lactobacilli can be beneficial in restoring and maintaining healthy vaginal flora, which is key in preventing future BV episodes. 

These suggestions are tailored to your specific circumstances, taking into account your medical history and any other health issues that might be affecting your vaginal health. By following a comprehensive treatment plan, you can not only treat BV effectively but also prevent its recurrence, leading to better overall health and comfort.

What Can You Do To Prevent BV?

If you’ve had BV, you probably want to avoid getting it again. While this fact sheet in the form of an article can help you to have a better awareness of the symptoms that BV can cause, there are some lifestyle factors that can leave you at an increased risk of getting BV.

The key is to create an environment that discourages the overgrowth of harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of protective lactobacilli. These changes help prevent bacterial vaginosis, protect against other infections, and maintain your overall well-being.

1. Consider How You Approach Sexual Activity

Sex can be fun and fulfilling and is different for everyone. While bacterial vaginosis isn’t really an STD, there are certain risk factors that can make it more likely you’ll contract it. If you have a high number of sex partners, your risk of BV is likely to go up, if not only because you’ll have more opportunities to encounter the types of bacteria that trigger BV. 

If you’ve engaged with a new sex partner prior to contracting BV, it might be worth a conversation with this person about hygiene to ensure they’re not negatively influencing your vaginal bacteria.

It’s not just about your partners, however. Using barrier contraception such as latex condoms can also minimize the risk of experiencing the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. 

If you use sex toys, be sure to clean them after usage and ideally before, too. Not all soaps are suited to all materials used in sex toys, so be sure to check with the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. Avoid Tight Fitting Clothing

Tight clothing, especially around the genital area, can compromise air circulation and lead to increased humidity and warmth, which are ideal conditions for bacterial growth. If you started noticing that tell-tale fishy smell after getting a new pair of workout leggings, this might be the cause.

Opting for looser garments helps maintain a cooler and drier environment, discouraging the overgrowth of bacteria responsible for bacterial vaginosis and other vaginal infections. This simple change in wardrobe can significantly decrease the risk of developing uncomfortable symptoms like vaginal discharge and odor, making it a critical consideration for anyone prone to recurrent infections or those with a history of sexual health issues.

3. Check the Material of Your Underwear

Choosing the right underwear can play a pivotal role in maintaining vaginal health. Fabrics like cotton are recommended because they allow for better air circulation and moisture absorption, which are crucial in keeping the area dry and less susceptible to infections like bacterial vaginosis. 

Synthetic materials, which can trap heat and moisture, should be avoided as they increase the risk of developing vaginal infections and discomfort. Look for breathable, natural fabrics not only for comfort but also to significantly reduce the chances of bacterial overgrowth and maintain a healthy vaginal pH. 

This is true of any clothing that directly contacts your vulva, and it’s one of those small but crucial pieces of women’s health information that we don’t talk about enough.

4. Don’t Sit in Wet or Sweaty Clothing

Staying in wet or sweaty clothing for prolonged periods can significantly increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis by creating a moist environment that fosters bacterial growth. It's crucial to change into dry clothing as soon as possible after activities like swimming, working out, or being caught in the rain. 

This practice helps prevent the accumulation of moisture and bacteria, maintaining the natural balance of bacteria and acidity in the vaginal area, which is vital for preventing bacterial vaginosis and ensuring the overall health of the vulva and vagina.

5. Find the Right Wash for Your Vulva

It’s tempting to reach for a fresh-smelling or else heavy-duty body wash when you’re dealing with unpleasant vaginal odor or unusual vaginal fluid, but it’s important to ignore this urge. Your vagina is self-cleaning internally, so steer clear of douching or similar processes. 

Far from being a treatment for bacterial vaginosis, these things can make your condition worse. Rather than guessing at what will address your BV, opt for a vulva-specific wash that will keep you feeling clean and fresh without leading to nightmares like recurrent bacterial vaginosis due to improper formulations.

It’s imperative to avoid any scented, perfumed, or essential oil-based washes. These can further disrupt your pH and lead to more unwelcome symptoms. 

Our VMAGIC® Vulva Wash is an excellent choice because it is specifically formulated to be gentle on sensitive skin while effectively cleansing without disrupting the natural pH. Our vulva wash is fragrance-free and does not contain harsh chemicals, making it ideal for daily use. 

The ingredients like glycerin hydrate and protect the skin, while sage leaf extract provides soothing benefits. Regular use can maintain a healthy microbial environment, ensuring that protective lactobacilli thrive.

No More BV Blues

Dealing with bacterial vaginosis can be straightforward with the right information and tools. By understanding what it is, how to treat it, and what you can do to prevent it, you’re taking big steps toward better intimate health. Embrace these tips and consider incorporating products that are friendly to your intimate areas, like VMAGIC® Vulva Wash, into your daily routine. 


Bacterial Vaginosis | Mayo Clinic

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How Antimicrobial Resistance Happens | CDC

Vaginal Yeast Infections | Women’s Health

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