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How to treat bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis or BV is one of the causes of vaginal discharge and odour that makes women seek medical help. This condition happens due to an imbalance in vaginal flora, that results in an overgrowth of “bad“ bacteria. Besides uncomfortable symptoms, if left untreated BV can increase the risk of acquiring an STD such as HIV or herpes.

It also increases the risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery if it occurs during pregnancy, and women with BV are more likely to get an infection after having a pelvic procedure such as a C-section or hysterectomy. Those are only some of the reasons why it is so important to treat bacterial vaginosis with appropriate medication before any complications occur.

How is BV diagnosed?

It goes without saying that if you notice changes in discharge, odour smelling of fish, itching, burning or other vaginal discomforts, you should see your doctor if the problems persist. Don’t be shy – the more information you give to your doctor, the easier it will be for him/her to diagnose the problem correctly.

Your doctor may also perform a pelvic examination, where they’ll be able to visually inspect your vagina and cervix. Your doctor might also take sample (with a swab) from your vaginal wall to check for microscopy signs for certain infections. This procedure is not painful, although it may be slightly uncomfortable, so make sure to breathe and relax as much as possible.

“Antibiotics are the most common treatment but can disrupt the beneficial vaginal flora, causing recurring problems”

Another test your doctor may perform is called a whiff test – a drop of potassium hydroxide is mixed with your sample of discharge. In case of a bacterial infection, a fishy odour is released, confirming the diagnosis. Another sign that can confirm the diagnosis is a vaginal pH value higher than 4.5.

Treatment of bacterial vaginosis

Around 30% of infections resolve on their own, thanks to our defence mechanisms. However, if the symptoms we’ve mentioned above do not fade away within a few days, appropriate therapy is necessary, especially during pregnancy. Although non-antibiotic remedies exist, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics to treat BV. The most common antibiotic regimens include:

  • Metronidazole* pills or vaginal gel
  • Clindamycin** pills, vaginal cream or vaginal suppositories
  • Tinidazole* pills

* Avoid using alcohol during antibiotic treatment and until 24h after the last pill to prevent nausea or abdominal pain.
** Clindamycin cream and vaginal suppositories can weaken latex condoms and diaphragms for up to 5 days after use.

Next to the mentioned side effects, antibiotics can disrupt the beneficial vaginal flora, which can lead to a yeast infection or to recurring BV infection. Correct your beneficial vaginal flora (lactobacilli) during or after finishing your antibiotic treatment by using a prebiotic that will stimulate the growth of good bacteria and keep your vagina healthy and balanced.

The alternative to antibiotics is to use natural products, which restore the pH of the vagina, have little to no side effects, and allow the good bacteria to reinstate the balance of the flora in the vaginal environment.