Dr Morton's - bacterial vaginosis
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Bacterial Vaginosis

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the commonest cause of abnormal discharge in women of child-bearing age. It's caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, and the offensive, fishy smell that comes with it can be highly embarrassing.

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Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

  • White, grey or green mucous discharge
  • Fishy smell from the vagina, especially after sex
  • Mild vaginal itchiness or soreness
  • Burning sensation when passing urine

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

BV is not yet well understood, but what we do know is that it is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Normally, the vagina contains bacteria called lactobacilli. These 'good' bacteria are important in keeping the vagina healthy. In BV, the lactobacilli are replaced with other types of bacteria that cause problems.

The condition has been described by gynaecologist Dr Karen Morton as 'having a snotty cold in your vagina'. It is more common in women with an Afro-Caribbean background.

When should I contact a doctor?

It's always worth contacting a doctor if you're experiencing unusual or offensive vaginal discharge. It could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection, it which case you would probably need further treatment.

If you're pregnant or planning to have a baby, BV has been linked to a number of complications, such as premature delivery, miscarriage and low birthweight, so it's imperative that you consult a specialist. Dr Morton's expert team of gynaecologists is on hand to take your phone calls.

How is BV diagnosed?

If you have typical symptoms, GPs are generally able to start you on treatment straightaway. If there is any doubt, however, he or she might test vaginal acidity (pH). The vagina is normally slightly acidic, with a pH between 3.8 and 4.5. In bacterial vaginosis, the vagina becomes more alkaline, and the pH often becomes greater than 4.5.

There are other kinds of tests that can be done if necessary. A doctor can advise you on the best course of action.

Is BV sexually transmitted?

BV is not counted as a sexually transmitted infection as it can happen in people who have never been sexually active. However sexual activity is linked with a higher risk of getting it.

Treatment of BV

BV is best treated with a seven day course of an appropriate antibiotic. Applying this antibiotic as a cream avoids the side effects involved in taking a tablet, like diarrhoea and vomiting.

Order Dr Morton's Prescription© for bacterial vaginosis to have antibiotic cream sent straight to you with next day delivery.

How do I prevent BV?

Avoid douching
  • Vaginal douching is a major risk factor for BV. You may think you're being hygienic by washing your genitals with shower gels and soaps, but actually what you're doing is killing off the good bacteria that live there and defend the vagina against bad bacteria. Bubble baths and using fragrance products down below can have the same effect.
Practice safe sex
  • Although BV is not counted as a sexually transmitted infection, sexual activity and changing sexual partners can increase your risk. This applies to both penetrative and oral sex, so always use a condom.
Stop Smoking
  • Smoking is a risk factor for BV. If you think this might be the case for you, the NHS has lots of information on how to stop smoking.
Copper Coil
  • The copper coil contraceptive device has been associated with higher rates of BV. If you're suffering from BV, you may want to consider other forms of contraception. Chat with our doctors if you'd like some advice.

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This page was last updated on 13/12/2016.