How Common is Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina brought about by bacteria. The normal flora of the vagina consists of several “good” bacteria and a few “bad” bacteria. In bacterial vaginosis, there is a proliferation of “bad” bacteria, which overwhelms the “good” ones. In most cases, it just a mild medical condition and it could subside it a matter of days. However, without proper treatment, it could lead to complications such as higher susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, it is important to consult a physician as soon symptoms are experienced.

Bacterial vaginosis is quite a common problem. One out of ten women are reported to have had this infection in their life. In the United States, approximately 29% of the female population suffers from this medical condition at one time or another. There is a higher occurrence of the infection in pre than post-menopausal women. It is estimated that between 10-64% of pregnant women are affected by it at one time or another. Women who have sexually transmitted diseases are 60% more susceptible to the infection.

85% of women suffering from this problem don’t have any presenting symptoms. However, if they do, the main indicators are foul fishy odor and unusual vaginal discharge. The discharge typically appears grayish white, which is more apparent following sexual intercourse.  There may be other accompanying symptoms such as painful urination, itching and irritation. If such symptoms are present, it’s possible that there’s another infection present such as yeast infection or sexually transmitted diseases.

It’s quite a challenge for researchers to determine what the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is. Currently, this medical condition requires the presence of varied types of harmful bacteria to manifest. The bacteria present are anaerobic, wherein they don’t need oxygen to thrive. Another factor is the decrease in lactobacilli, a microorganism that allows the vagina to be slightly acidic. A woman has a higher risk of acquiring the infection if they smoke, douche and have sexual intercourse with more than one individual. Although the medical condition is not considered as a sexually transmitted disease, sexually active women are more likely to develop it.

Women who are suffering from bacterial vaginosis are treated with antibiotics. The frequently used medications are clindamycin (Cleocin) and metronidazole (Flagyl). They can be taken orally as pill or as gels, creams, capsules (termed ovules) and suppositories that are inserted into the vagina. Pregnant women are advised to take pills since vaginal preparation could increase the risk of miscarriages and preterm labor. Although the infection may clear within 2-3 days, doctors prescribe the antibiotic management to continue for 7 days. This helps prevent the recurrence of the infection and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The main cause of bacterial vaginosis is not well understood. Experts have only established that women who have sex are more prone to developing it than non-sexually active women.  However, it is still not unusual in non-sexually active women.  To prevent the imbalance between healthy and harmful bacteria in the vagina, it’s important to take preventive measures. The best way to hinder the infection is not to have sexual intercourse while the condition persists and avoid multiple partners. If sexually active, condoms should be used as protection. It’s important not to douche. Once a person has the infection, make sure to take the full course of the antibiotic treatment.