Bacterial vaginosis

A disruption of the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina results in bacterial vaginosis. Only women are affected by this condition, which increases the amount of foul-smelling vaginal discharge in half of cases. Other symptoms, like itchiness or pain, are not common. Bacterial vaginosis typically disappears on its own after a few weeks. If necessary, the doctor might advise taking antibiotics.

A disruption of the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina results in bacterial vaginosis. Only women are affected by this condition, which increases the amount of foul-smelling vaginal discharge in half of cases. Other symptoms, like itchiness or pain, are not common. Bacterial vaginosis typically disappears on its own after a few weeks. If necessary, the doctor might advise taking antibiotics.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition in women between the ages of 15 and 44. It’s a disturbance of the natural balance of the various bacteria in the vagina. Bacteria that normally occur in small amounts, like Gardnerella vaginalis, have multiplied greatly. Other bacteria, such as the lactic acid bacteria, are actually reduced. This has consequences for the acidity in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis leads to an increased vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor. Despite occasionally resembling a STD in symptoms, bacterial vaginosis is not a STD. In a few weeks, the majority of women recover on their own.

How do you get Bacterial Vaginosis?

The natural balance of the bacteria in the vagina is disrupted for a number of reasons. For example, by using deodorant for the vagina, soap, or rinses. The normal vaginal flora can also be altered by an IUD, hormonal changes, previously contracted STDs, medication use, and not changing tampons or sanitary napkins frequently. We also regularly see a disturbance of the vaginal flora in women with a low resistance due to stress, diabetes, smoking, menstruation or pregnancy.

Bacterial vaginosis is more commonly diagnosed in sexually active women. Especially in women who have sex with other women.

Signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis

About half of all women with bacterial vaginosis have symptoms. The other half has asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis. Signs and symptoms include foul-smelling (fishy) abnormal fluid discharge from the vagina. This fluid often has a grey-white color. Itching or pain during sex or urination are less common symptoms. The mucous membrane is not more red or thicker than normal.

Did you know about half of all women with bacterial vaginosis do not notice it? The other half has symptoms and complaints. Symptoms are confused with those of a fungal infection.

What are the risks?

When Bacterial vaginosis does not go away on its own or is not treated with medication, it’s recommended to see a doctor. If you have complaints with abdominal pain and fever, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Bacterial vaginosis is common in women who have PID, which is an inflammation of the small pelvis. Although there is no proven link between bacterial vaginosis and PID, it may facilitate the spread of vaginal organisms to the upper genitalia. Furthermore, bacterial vaginosis weakens the body’s natural defences against infections. Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy is associated with a slightly increased risk of premature birth or late miscarriage.

Numbers

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition among women aged 15 to 44. It is unknown how many women in the Netherlands have this condition, but it is estimated to be between 10% and 50%. Half of the women have no symptoms. Women who have never had sex can also get bacterial vaginosis. However, it’s more common in sexually active women who have multiple bed partners.

Risk factors

There is still a lot of uncertainty about how contagious Bacterial vaginosis is. Although Bacterial Vaginosis is not an STD, it’s possible to contract or pass on bacteria during sex. However, the bed partner generally doesn’t experience any symptoms. It’s a good idea to always use a condom.

Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis

The vagina cleans itself. So avoid using soap, vaginal rinses or other substances such as deodorant, probiotics, vitamin C or tea tree oil. Showering is better than taking a bath. Don’t suddenly start taking more frequent showers because washing more frequently or thoroughly is not necessary. Use warm water to clean your delicate parts. Only use unscented products, and replace tampons and pads frequently. Do not change bed partners too often and always use a condom during sex.

Test yourself for Bacterial vaginosis

Women who suffer from a foul-smelling vaginal discharge can use our Bacterial vaginosis test. With our self-test, you specifically test for Bacterial vaginosis. This is the most common vaginal condition in women aged 15 to 44. The self-test can be completed easily, quickly, and anonymously from the comfort of your home. The self-test includes instructions that explains each step in detail. You will receive the results within a few days.

How often should you test for Bacterial Vaginosis?

We recommend testing if you suffer from an abnormal foul-smelling vaginal discharge. It does not mean that you have bacterial vaginosis, but our test can rule it out or confirm it. Bacterial Vaginosis can reappear within three months. If you get bacterial vaginosis more than twice a year, your doctor may recommend a different treatment.

How does our test work?

Our self-test includes a collection kit that allows you to take a vaginal sample at home, with the help of a vaginal swab (cotton swab). After collecting the swab, place it in the provided liquid-filled tube. You then return it to the laboratory using our return box. The material is examined in the lab for the presence of genetic material (RNA) from bacteria linked to bacterial vaginosis, such as Lactobacillus, Gardnerella vaginalis, and Atopobium vaginae.

Where to test?

You can take our self-test quickly and anonymously from the comfort of your own home. Take a swab and send it to our laboratory where we’ll test for Bacterial vaginosis. We always recommend seeing a doctor if you have any concerns or are experiencing physical discomfort.

Treatment

Typically, doctors advise patients to wait for bacterial vaginosis to resolve on its own. This usually takes a few weeks. Meanwhile, when washing the vagina, use lukewarm water. Avoid using soap and other cleaning products. Also, be careful during sex. It’s important to be aroused. Make sure you’re moist or use a lubricant. Stop having sex if it hurts. If there’s a lot of fluid discharge, itching, or a bad odour, the doctor may prescribe medication.

Most of the time, the body heals itself from Bacterial vaginosis. If this doesn’t happen, or if there’s a lower resistance to disease, the doctor will prescribe bacteria-killing medication. These are pills, vaginal suppositories, or creams. Antibacterial medications can affect the rubber in condoms and diaphragms, making them less effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs.

Bacterial vaginosis could reappear within three months. If you get bacterial vaginosis more than twice a year, you’ll need to take antibiotics for a few months.

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