Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about BV
Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV, as it is more commonly referred to is a type of vaginal infection that is caused by imbalances in the amounts of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vagina. When this imbalance occurs, the vagina becomes itchy, smells fishy and has abnormal grey or milky-white discharge.
BV is more common in sexually active women who have a new partner or multiple partners or who share sexual relationships with women, but BV is not a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) since virgins can get BV too. BV is also common in pregnant women and women who douche regularly. BV is more common in African American women than white women and in women who don’t use condoms or who have an intrauterine device (IUD).
BV is a treatable infection that will affect 1 in 3 women at least once in her lifetime. BV is usually mild and is rarely life-threatening, but in some cases, if it goes untreated, it can leaving a lasting impact.
The purpose of this article is to answer all the burning questions you may have about BV (no pun intended) and help you to understand this condition better.
Does having BV mean I am dirty?
Unfortunately, the [misconception] still exists that whenever a woman has a vaginal infection she is dirty and doesn’t bathe. But quite the contrary, bacterial infections can happen to a woman who is trying to be too clean.
It all boils to one thing, bacteria. While some may hear the word “bacteria” and automatically think that it is a bad thing, there are good and bad bacteria all over the body, and some of these bacteria live in the vagina. The good bacteria are there to keep the bad bacteria in check and maintain the pH of the vagina. When the balance is disturbed, bad bacteria take over and cause a bacterial infection.
The balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vagina can be disturbed by douching the vagina. Douching involves spraying small amounts of water, or a mixture of water and vinegar/soap into the vagina to make it “clean” or “smell fresh”, or to remove menstrual blood and prevent pregnancy and STDs.
This practice is ineffective and places women at greater risk of infections and complications especially when pregnant and has even been linked to cervical cancer. As it relates to BV, douching can kill good bacteria, which upsets the vaginal balance and promotes the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina.
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, meaning it needs no help in keeping itself clean and healthy. Using scented soaps, and inserting any form of cleaning agent inside of the vagina can also kill bacteria and lead to a vaginal infection.
The best way to keep your intimate area clean is with warm water and if necessary, a gentle soap. Gently wash the vulva (including the folds) with your fingers. No scrubbing implements or rags are necessary since these can cause microtrauma.
Can I test for BV at home?
BV has some telltale symptoms, but many of them are not unique to BV. These include abnormal discharge, fishy odor, itching, and irritation and a burning sensation when urinating. Note that not all women will experience all these symptoms, and some experience none at all.
There are also at-home test kits you can use but you are not a doctor, so leave the diagnosing to medical professionals. Many doctors can diagnose you with BV after a physical exam and may follow up with either of these tests :
Amsel’s criteria: This consists of four tests, three of which have to come back positive to confirm you have BV. These tests include:
Nugent’s criteria: This is where a vaginal swab is taken and sent to a lab where the ratio of good bacteria and bad bacteria is evaluated.
Affirm VP III: This is a test for high concentrations of G. Vaginalis, a strain of bacteria known to cause BV
Osom BV Blue Test: This tests for sialidase, an enzyme produced by bad BV bacteria
Nucleic Acid Tests: These can identify several of the different bacteria associated with BV and other infections such as thrush and trichomoniasis.
Can I get BV from oral sex?
Yes, you can get BV from oral sex . It happens because of bacteria found in the mouth which can throw off the vaginal balance. It can also happen when food is used during sex, such as chocolate syrup or strawberry, or when flavored lubricants are used.
Is Bacterial Vaginosis dangerous?
Bacterial Vaginosis is mild in nature, so you won’t have to worry about losing an arm or a leg from this type of condition. BV will rarely leave lasting damage, and once treated you should be good to go.
Does BV cause nausea?
BV itself does not cause nausea or vomiting, however, certain medications used to treat BV such as metronidazole can cause this side effect, especially when alcohol is consumed.
Can I spread BV to my partner?
BV is nearly three times as likely to occur in lesbian and bisexual relationships than heterosexual relationships.
You are more likely to spread it to a female partner if you share sex toys and engage in oral sex. To avoid this, wash toys with soap and water after each use and avoid sharing. Use a dental dam for oral sex, and finger condoms or gloves during sexual activity if your partner has BV.
Men cannot suffer from BV but they can spread it when bad bacteria accumulates on their penis (especially under the foreskin of uncircumcised men) or in their urethra. This is especially common if he has sexual relationships with many women.
Can I get BV from my man?
If you are in an open relationship with a male partner, or if he has stepped out on the relationship, he can transmit BV and potentially an STD the next time he engages in sexual activity with you.
You can get BV even if he hasn’t had other sexual partners during your relationship. While it isn’t completely understood by scientists, it is thought to be caused by natural genital chemical changes . The only way to prevent this would be by using a condom.
Does my birth control have anything to do with my BV?
Yes, using certain birth control methods such as the IUD can put you at risk of new or recurring BV but the chances of this are low.
If you wish to confirm this theory, speak to your doctor about it. You may be advised to switch your birth control method or stop taking it altogether to see if there’s a change.
Some studies suggest that hormonal birth control methods can prevent BV as they alter the vaginal environment and prevents menstruation which has been known to decrease good bacteria count in the vagina.
Can BV spread to the rest of my body?
Typically, BV doesn’t cause health-related issues and clears up on its own or with a course of antibiotics.
However, in more severe cases, untreated BV can cause bacteria to spread from the vagina to the cervix, on to the fallopian tubes, uterus and/or ovaries. This condition is known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and can cause chronic abdominal pain, infertility and health problems such as appendicitis and endometriosis. It can also cause life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancy.
BV can also spread to certain organs after procedures such as abortions, cesarean delivery or surgery on the cervix or uterus.
How long does BV does BV take to clear up?
Most doctors will prescribe a week-long course of antibiotics but you will notice that your symptoms may disappear in 2-3 days. This doesn’t mean you should stop taking the antibiotics. Follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure it goes away completely.
Can I treat BV with Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple Cider Vinegar is among one of the many home remedies women have been trying for years to treat BV since it has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Some women insert apple cider vinegar-soaked tampons into their vagina, while others dilute it and use it to wash their vulva. Some claim this is effective, while others refute the claims.
Many gynecologists warn against this practice since apple cider vinegar can cause additional irritation to the vaginal tissue and can kill the good bacteria which can worsen your symptoms.
If you want to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your treatment plan, the safest way to do it is by adding it to water or food and ingesting it. It is good for things such as weight loss, lowering cholesterol, treating dandruff, aiding digestion and managing acne.
What does it mean if I keep getting BV?
If you keep getting BV, it means that something is continuing to upset your vaginal balance.
This can happen because of factors such as:
Menstruation : When your period comes, the good bacteria in the vagina latches onto the red blood cells and get flushed out of the body. This creates a bacterial imbalance and can cause recurring BV.
Pregnancy : Pregnancy causes fluctuations in hormone levels which can upset the vaginal balance and lead to BV. BV is especially dangerous during pregnancy since it can cause a miscarriage or cause your baby to be born underweight, prematurely or suffer from neonatal meningitis.
Feminine hygiene products :Feminine hygiene products such as soaps, wipes, douches, washes, sprays, and deodorants can destroy bacteria and can cause Bacterial Vaginosis
Sexual Partner : Your sexual partner can transmit the bacteria which causes BV to you during oral or vaginal sex. It can also happen when sex toys are shared or when female genital fluids mix.
Can BV turn into chlamydia?
BV is different from chlamydia which is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) and cannot turn into or develop into it. However, BV does put you at greater risk of getting STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV/AIDs during unprotected sex.
How can I stop BV from returning?
The best thing you can do is take your medication as prescribed so that the balance can be restored to your vagina. If the cause of your BV was identified, then you can prevent it from returning by avoiding that specific thing.
In many cases, the direct cause is unknown and your doctor may recommend dietary changes, using a condom, avoid unnecessary hygiene practices such as douching and vaginal cleansers or a new, longer course of medication.
How long after being diagnosed with BV can I have sex?
You can have sex once your symptoms clear up and once it feels comfortable.
To avoid aggravating your infection, try to wait until you are done with your course of antibiotics and have been given the green light by your doctor. If you suspect you might have gotten BV from your sexual partner, use a condom.