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The female reproductive system is both complicated and amazing. It is able to bring life into the world through labor and delivery.

Unfortunately, the system moves through an overwhelming amount of stages that change a woman's physical and emotional well-being. By learning the causes and symptoms of common issues, you can reduce your risk of developing disorders that affect your reproductive health and overall level of comfort.

While surprising to learn, 21.2 million women between the ages of 14 and 49 develop an uncomfortable infection in the vaginal area. Known as bacterial vaginosis, or BV, this common infection has unpleasant symptoms and a potential to cause serious health issues if not caught and treated.

Fortunately, this guide and gynecologists help can help you understand and treat bacterial vaginosis.

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis

The vagina is an incredible part of a woman's body. It expands and contracts to bring life into the world, but it is also capable of cleaning itself using bacteria that is actually good for your health.
Over time and throughout your cycle, hormonal imbalances will affect the good bacteria present in the vagina. Without this good bacteria, the unhealthy bacteria will begin to form.
The presence of this dangerous bacteria can cause infections, such as yeast and bacterial vaginosis.
Certain habits and behaviors can increase your risk of BV. Sexual intercourse, douching and even using soaps and body washes that contain high levels of fragrance can decrease the good bacteria in the vaginal area.

Signs of BV

If you have bacterial vaginosis, you may not notice any signs until the infection has progressed. However, if you are experiencing one or more of the following, consult your gynecologist:

  • Abnormal Discharge – While a yeast infection causes a thick, white or yellow discharge in the vaginal area, if you have BV, you may notice a thin discharge that is almost gray in color.
  • Odor – Discharge that stems from infections will have an unpleasant smell. Bacterial vaginosis will create a foul, fishy-smelling discharge. Both the discharge and odors will most be noticeable after sexual intercourse.
  • Itching – The infection and abnormal discharge will cause discomfort in your vaginal area. You may have an increased itchiness or burning sensation in the area. If you are feeling these sensations, avoid having sexual intercourse, which can worsen the discomfort, until you see your doctor.
  • Pain During Urination and Intercourse – BV may cause you to feel dryness and pain while urinating or having sexual intercourse.

Diagnosing and Treating BV

The above signs are not life-threatening, but you should consult your gynecologist soon to reduce the risk of the infection spreading. Without diagnosing and treating, BV can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and early labor if you are pregnant.
Your gynecologist will complete a physical exam, which includes taking a swab of the discharge inside your vagina. This sample will be tested to determine if you have bacterial vaginosis or another infection.
Healthy pH levels of the vagina should be no higher than 4.5. If levels are higher, you most likely have BV.
Your gynecologist will prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infections. In addition, do not have sexual intercourse, douche, or insert tampons until you have started treatment and noticed a decrease in symptoms.
Medicated creams that are applied to the exterior of the vagina will also be prescribed to reduce inflammation, swelling and itchiness. In severe cases, you may require medication that is inserted into the vagina to ease symptoms.
Bacterial vaginosis is an uncomfortable infection that should be understood and treated. To learn more about your gynecological health and BV, contact James E. Ramseur, Jr MD today.