As women, we go through a lot when it comes to our bodies. From periods to pregnancy to menopause and everything in between, our bodies take us on a pretty incredible journey throughout our life. Most times, everything is running smoothly and pretty much on autopilot. Things are great. Until they’re not.
One common culprit of discomfort down there is bacterial vaginosis, or BV. BV happens when there is an overgrowth of the bacteria that typically live in the vagina. BV is treatable with antibiotics but it will require a visit to your doctor.
We chatted with Dr. Richard Conlen, an OBGYN in Episode 5: The Ins and Outs of Women’s Health on our Wellness Essentials Podcast, all about BV and how to get rid of it for good. First and foremost, he cleared up a common misconception that it’s a sexually transmitted infection, as many women believe. “[BV] is a very common infection, and although it can be associated with sexual partners, it really isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease, but it is recurrent and you do pass it back and forth between the partners.”
What are the symptoms to look for?
BV is usually marked by a strong telltale fishy odor, especially after sex. Although there can also be discharge, itching and burning that accompany a case of bacterial vaginosis.
What is BV caused by?
Dr. Conlen says that “BV reflects a change in the environment of the vagina. The vagina has to have certain bacteria and those bacteria work together in the microbiome, in check and in balance so that it takes care of itself. We like to refer to the vagina as a self-cleaning oven. Left to itself, it will come back into balance.” However, when you introduce sexual activity, you introduce virions, viruses, bacteria, et cetera, that tends to change the environment of the vagina.” As a side note, this also means NO douching! Let it do its self-cleaning magic without further throwing it out of balance by using douches.
How do you get rid of BV?
A course of antibiotics is generally the first step in treating BV. If it is a recurrent infection, you’ll need antibiotic therapy as long as the infection is present. “Could be [an oral antibiotic], sometimes it can be a cream, they have new medicines that are out, that come as drinks, you take it once and you're set,” Dr. Conlen adds. “Now they have medicines, it's a one-time dose to take care of, so we are making progress in this area, but you just can't shoot from the hip, you have to have some testing to find out exactly where you are.”
It’s estimated that one in every three women will get BV at some point in their lives. While BV can go away on its own in a few days, if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. That way, if it is BV, your doctor can get you on the right meds to get everything back to normal again.