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Bacterial vaginosis – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 by

Bacterial vaginosis (BV), also called nonspecific vaginitis, is a vaginal condition that can produce vaginal discharge. It is caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the vagina.

Bacterial vaginosis was previously called Gardnerella vaginitis, after the bacteria that allegedly caused the condition. However, the newer name, bacterial vaginosis, indicates that there are a number of species of bacteria that naturally live in the vaginal area and may grow to excess, instead of a true infection with foreign bacteria, like what happens with many sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

The Gardnerella organism is not the only type of bacteria that can cause the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. Other kinds of bacteria that can cause bacterial vaginosis are Lactobacillus, Bacteroides, Peptostreptococcus, Fusobacterium, Eubacterium, along with types. When these multiple species of bacteria that normally reside in the vagina are unbalanced, a woman can have vaginal discharge with a foul odor.

Known side effects of bacterial vaginosis

Side effects of bacterial vaginosis include:

  • Vaginal odor – The most common, and often the first symptoms of BV. The odor if usually recognized only after sexual intercourse.
  • Mildly to moderately increased vaginal discharge
  • Vulvar irritation – A less common side effect of BV.
  • Dysuria (painful urination)
  • Dyspareunia – Refers to painful sexual intercourse, dyspareunia is a rare side effect of BV.

Risk factors for BV include:

  • Recent antibiotic use
  • Decreased estrogen production in women
  • Wearing an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Douching
  • Sexual activity that can cause transmission (e.g. having a new sexual partner or a recent increase in the number of sexual partners)

Body systems harmed by bacterial vaginosis

Women with BV may notice the following physical findings:

  • Gray, thin, and homogeneous vaginal discharge that adheres to the vaginal mucosa
  • Increased light reflex of the vaginal walls, with little to no inflammation
  • Normal-appearing labia, introitus, cervix, and cervical discharge
  • Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix) in some cases

If left untreated, BV can cause:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – PID is an inflammation of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and even the ovaries. PID can lead to a number of complications, such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy complications – Pregnant women with BV may be at a higher risk for having low-birth-weight babies and the premature rupture of the membranes (or one’s water “breaking” too early).
  • Greater risk of other sexually transmitted infection – Women with BV are at greater risk of getting HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
  • Increased risk of post surgical infection – Women with BV are more likely to develop an infection after surgeries that affect the reproductive system (e.g. a hysterectomy or an abortion).

Food items or nutrients that may prevent bacterial vaginosis

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent BV:

  • Yogurt – A natural probiotic, yogurt can help introduce healthy bacteria back into the body. This can establish a balanced vaginal environment and help fight off bad bacteria.
  • Probiotics – Probiotics can help treat and prevent future cases of BV.
  • Garlic – Thanks to its strong antibacterial properties, garlic can help treat BV.

Treatments, management plans for bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is easily diagnosed using a sample of vaginal fluid. It can be treated with some antibiotics, which may be given orally or in the form of a topical cream or ointment inserted into the vagina.

Do take note that BV can recur, even after antibiotic treatment. The treatment of male sexual partners is generally not recommended.

Where to learn more


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal condition that can produce vaginal discharge. It is caused by an overgrowth of certain kinds of bacteria in the vagina.

Symptoms of BV include vaginal odor and vulvar irritation.

BV is easily diagnosed using a sample of vaginal fluid. It can be treated with antibiotics.


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