BV: Common Infection, But Dangerous, Especially in Pregnancy

BV (bacterial vaginosis) is the most widespread infection in women of childbearing age. Pregnant women commonly have it. You could have it and not know it, as most women with it have no signs or symptoms at all. This bacterial infection is one of the three most common causes of vaginitis. To read about other causes of vaginitis, see this page.

Bacterial vaginosis means a diseased or abnormal condition in the vagina caused by bacteria. It can be especially dangerous in pregnancy, as detailed below.

What Are The Symptoms of BV?

If you do have symptoms, you may have an abnormal white or grey vaginal discharge with an unpleasant, strong fish-like odor, especially after intercourse. The discharge may be thin, You may have a burning sensation during urination and/or an itchy vagina.

How Do You Get a Bacterial Infection of The Vagina?

The cause of this condition is not fully understood. My personal belief is that like most other conditions in the human body, there is not one single cause. The first thing I'd recommend is to take a look at your digestive tract health and your diet and lifestyle. If you have bacterial vaginosis, you may not have healthy digestion and bowel movements.

What is understood is that when bacterial vaginosis occurs, the normal balance of bacteria is disrupted and replaced by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

The main risk factors, according to official sources, for a bacterial infection of the vagina are:

  • Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
  • Douching
  • Use of an IUD

According to the CDC, you don’t get it from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools or touching objects around you.

BV usually won’t affect male partners, but it can spread between female partners. Women who have never had sex can have this infection, too.

What Are The Complications of BV?

Usually there are no complications, but there can be very serious, even deadly ones such as:

  • It can increase your susceptibility to an HIV infection if you’re exposed to the HIV virus.
  • It can increase the risk that an HIV-infected woman can pass HIV to her sex partner.
  • It can increase your risk to other sexually-transmitted diseases (STD’s) such as herpes simplex virus (HSV), Chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • It can increase your risk in developing an infection following insertion of intrauterine devices (IUD’s) or after surgical procedures such as an abortion or hysterectomy. It is a good idea to be screened for bacterial vaginosis prior to having these surgeries or using an IUD.
  • It can sometimes infect the uterus and fallopian tubes causing PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) which can cause infertility or damage the fallopian tubes enough to increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, typically in a fallopian tube. The tube can rupture causing massive infection.

What Does BV Do In Pregnancy?

Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis have more babies who are born prematurely or with low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) compared to healthy pregnant women. As a result, treatment is especially important in pregnancy.

Current recommendations are that all pregnant women who have ever had a premature delivery or low birth-eight baby should be considered to be tested for bacterial vaginosis, even if they have no symptoms. If it is found in pregnancy, it should be treated.

This bacterial infection can also cause postpartum endometritis, an infection of the uterus following vaginal or cesarean delivery of a baby. Endometritis is a serious infection and should be treated promptly by a physician.

How is Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosed and Treated?

Learn about the diagnosis here, and how it is treated with conventional drugs here.

Read about BV and probiotics on this page.

Return to Vaginitis page.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is educational in nature and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure for any physical or mental disease, nor is it intended as a substitute for regular medical care. Consult with your doctor regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.

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