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What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (also referred to as BV) is a common infection of the vagina. BV is not caused by a single bacterium, but by an 'overgrowth' of various bacteria occurring in the vagina. It is not always clear why this occurs.
Normally there are a number of harmless bacteria in the vagina. These bacteria may help in the defence against harmful bugs (such as candida which causes thrush). In BV, there may be a change in the balance of the normal bacteria in the vagina, and certain bacteria may then multiply and thrive much more than usual. BV is not caused by poor hygiene. In fact, excessive washing of the vagina may alter the normal balance of bacteria, which may make BV more likely to develop.
Although BV is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can increase the risk of infection of other STIs. You may therefore wish to consider getting a full STI screen if you think you have been exposed to STIs.
Anytime Doctor provides this service for women who have been diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis or women who recognise the symptoms of BV after having had a previous episode in the past. If you are in any doubt have a postal test before requesting treatment. BV is mostly caused by the gardnerella vaginalis bacterium.
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We aim to offer you similar pattern of healthcare as if you were to visit your normal GP for a face to face consultation. We believe it is important that you complete a medical consultation to ensure that the treatment option you are requesting is appropriate for your needs. Our GMC registered doctors are also able to suggest treatment options for you if you prefer. Once a doctor has approved you for treatment all prices are clearly displayed. Your medical consultation and registration is free and you are under no obligation to purchase any treatment after your consultation.
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What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?
Vaginal discharge is the main symptom and BV is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women of childbearing age. It seems to be heaviest just after a period and after having sex. The discharge does not always cause soreness around the vagina. This is different to thrush, another common cause of vaginal discharge, which is often quite sore. Many women with BV do not have any symptoms (up to half of cases).
How effective is this bacterial vaginosis treatment?
Both the one day course and seven day course of treatment for BV are very effective if you follow your doctor's prescribing instructions. The seven day treatment is just cheaper, however BV does have a high recurrence rate.
Is bacterial vaginosis a sexually transmitted disease?
BV can affect any woman, including those who do not have sex. However, some cases of BV seem to be sexually 'related'. It may develop after a change in sexual partner. In these cases, the infection is not 'caught' from anyone. But, a change in sexual partner may affect the balance of normal bacteria in the vagina. It seems that women can also pass it to a female partner.
Who gets bacterial vaginosis and how common is it?
About 1 in 10 women have BV at some time in their life. Any woman can be affected.
How can I prevent further episodes of bacterial vaginosis?
Most episodes of BV occur for no apparent reason, and cannot be prevented. However, the following are thought to help prevent some episodes of BV:
BV recurs within 3 months in about half of women who have been successfully treated. If it does recur, a repeat course of antibiotics will usually be successful. A small number of women have repeated episodes of BV, and need repeated courses of antibiotics.
Does my sexual partner need any treatment?
No, BV is not a sexually transmitted infection in most instances, and most male sex partners do not need treatment. As semen is alkaline and can upset the acid-alkali balance in the vagina there may be some limited value in the male partner of a woman with recurrent BV using a condom for a few months. Same sex female partners seem to be at greater risk and can be assessed for symptoms and treatment.
Are there any complications with bacterial vaginosis?
BV during pregnancy is thought to cause some cases of early labour, miscarriage, and infection of the uterus (womb) after childbirth. Therefore, antibiotic treatment is usually advised if BV occurs during pregnancy. If you have BV, the chance of developing an infection of the uterus is higher following certain operations, such as a termination of pregnancy. Therefore, antibiotics are advised even in the absence of symptoms. This must however be managed via a face-to-face consultation with your GP, as BV is not suitable for remote treatment during pregnancy.
Last reviewed & updated 17/05/2020 Authored 04/09/2009
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