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Innermost Secrets / Innermost Living / Body Clock
Skip Navigation LinksBacterial Vaginosis
Page modified at: 21/02/2010

Bacterial Vaginosis - Gardnerella VaginalisBacterial Vaginosis (BV) was formerly known as non-specific vaginitis and is the most common cause of vaginitis. It is caused by overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina, including Gardnerella Vaginalis and Mycoplasma Hominis etc which replace the normal vaginal Lactobacilli and this in turn can often casue a malodorous vaginal discharge though about 50% of infections are silent.

Bacterial Vaginosis is the most prevalent cause of vaginal discharge or malodour; however, more than 50% of women with BV are asymptomatic.  Although BV is not strictly considered a sexually transmitted disease, sexual activity has been linked to development of this infection. The incidence of BV increases with the number of recent and lifetime sexual partners or new sexual partners.
 
How is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) spread?
The cause of the microbial alteration is not fully understood. BV is associated with having multiple sex partners, a new sex partner, douching, and lack of vaginal lactobacilli; whether BV results from acquisition of a sexually transmitted pathogen is unclear. Women who have never been sexually active are rarely affected.
 
How do I reduce the risk of catching Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

  • Male and female condoms, when used correctly, can help protect against STIs
  • Before you have sex, talk to your partner about using condoms
  • Use condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • If you have oral sex, use a dam

How do I reduce the risk of passing Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) on to others?
Testing and treating (if appropriate) all sexual contacts helps to prevent the infection being passed on to other but treatment of male sex partners has not been beneficial in preventing the recurrence of BV.  The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including Bacterial Vaginosis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.  
Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of BV because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.
Transmission of an STD, including BV cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and/or douching after sex. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, particularly in the groin area, should be a signal to refrain from having sex and to see a doctor immediately.
 
What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Gardnerella Vaginalis is predominantly identified in women. Male partners are usually asymptomatic and rarely develop infections with Gardnerella Vaginalis however, the urethras of men whose sexual partners have symptoms of BV are frequently colonized with the same strain of Gardnerella Vaginalis
Women might notice:

    * Nothing – 50% are silent
    * Unusual vaginal discharge - thin and white and evenly coats the vaginal walls often with a characteristic fishy odour

Men might notice:

    * Nothing – usually assymptomatic
 
What happens if Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)isn't treated?
Without treatment, the infection can cause a persistent malodorous discharge and vaginitis and treatment will relieve vaginal symptoms and signs of infection. Treatment reduces the risk for infectious complications after abortion or hysterectomy and the risk for other infections (e.g., HIV and other STDs). In pregnant women infection can cause adverse pregnancy outcomes, including premature rupture of the membranes, preterm labor, preterm birth, intraamniotic infection, and postpartum endometritis. Treatment reduces these risks.
In women, BV usually causes a malodorous “fishy” discharge
In men BV is usually assymptomatic
 
How can I reduce the risk of catching Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) ?
Practising safer sex reduces the risk of infection with BV. The results of clinical trials indicate that a woman’s response to therapy and the likelihood of relapse or recurrence are not affected by treatment of her sex partner(s). Therefore, routine treatment of sex partners is not recommended
 
How do I reduce the risk of passing Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) on to others?
Testing and treating (if appropriate) all sexual contacts helps to prevent the infection being passed on to others.
 
How do I get testing or treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) ?
If you think you might have BV it's important to be tested , especially if you are  planning a pregnancy.
 
NHS:Testing is free on the NHS from genitourinary medicine clinics, sexual health clinics, many contraception clinics, your GP and pharmacies. You can find a clinic to help with Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) by phoning directory enquiries and asking for genitourinary medicine, sexually transmitted disease or venereal disease or locate one using our NHS Genitourinary Medicine Clinic page in the Sexual Health Section of our website.
 
PRIVATE:Alternatively you can have confidential private testing based on an internet ordered urine home sample kit.   Telephone  0345 2303386 or use the  Confidential Text Service 07786202070
 
How is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) treated?
Bacterial Vaginosis is easy to treat with antibiotics. Regimes include Metronidazole 500 mg orally twice a day for 7 days OR Metronidazole gel, 0.75%, one full applicator (5 g) intravaginally, once a day for 5 days OR Clindamycin cream, 2%, one full applicator (5 g) intravaginally at bedtime for 7 days. Patients should be advised to avoid consuming alcohol during treatment with metronidazole and for 24 hours thereafter. Clindamycin cream is oil-based and might weaken latex condoms and diaphragms for 5 days after use.

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