It’s time to find out about bacterial vaginosis

Pretty much since I fell pregnant with Finley I’ve become more interested and in tune with my body’s cycle and my feminine health. If we feel we might have a problem in our intimate area it can be embarrassing to talk about and many of us end up using Doctor Google – often with not great results! We also need to be more aware of the common things that can affect us and what ailments we might be more prone to at different times in our lives. Here’s a really helpful article for you to help you understand more about a very common vaginal condition that many of us try and self-diagnose, often making the wrong assumption…

When you think of embarrassing conditions, the chances are that intimate issues are going to be at the top of the list. An intimate problem can make some women less likely to seek professional help and more likely to self-diagnose – which can lead to mistreatment, perhaps incorrect diagnosis and the misery of ongoing symptoms.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common vaginal conditions for women. In fact, it’s twice as common as thrush and, according to experts, is the leading cause of abnormal vaginal discharge. Yet 2 out of 3 women are self-diagnosing it as thrush because they don’t know the symptoms of BV.

BV doesn’t need to be a problem. Helen Knox, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Contraception and Sexual Health, explains a bit more:

“It’s estimated 1 in 3 UK women will experience BV – that’s 8.9 million women in the UK alone. Most women know about thrush, but very few have heard of BV. While there are some differences in symptoms, such as a distinctive odour with BV that is not present with thrush, many women will automatically reach for a thrush treatment when they have any vaginal irritation. This can result in misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment and prolonged symptoms. Many women will consult the Internet to diagnose vaginal ailments to stop unnecessary worry, and get a better understanding of their symptoms before seeing a doctor, but based on Google search, they can often come across inaccurate advice and easily misdiagnose symptoms for something else.”

Dionne, a 35-year-old Clerical Officer from London, suffered with Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) from her early teens. Here is here personal story:

BV and your Body

Your healthy vagina is all about balance: it is home to millions of micro-organisms, and is normally good at keeping them stable. Lactobacillus is a ‘good’ bacteria that helps to stop other more harmful micro-organisms from growing, and maintains the pH (acid–alkaline) balance of your vagina. When this balance gets disrupted, you’ll start to notice things aren’t quite right and you could be developing BV.

What triggers BV?

It is a common misconception that having BV means that you are not clean. In fact, scented soap, shower washes and even douches can upset your natural bacterial balance, which makes you more likely to develop BV.

You can develop BV at any time, but it’s more likely to occur if your vagina (which is an acidic environment) is disrupted by something that changes this natural pH balance – for example, semen – which is alkaline; or by using perfumed products or soaps; or even menstrual bleeding. Because the pH of this intimate area can so easily change due to many factors, it’s no surprise that BV is so common.

How to recognise the symptoms of BV

How to treat BV

If you think you have BV, there is a handy online symptom checker that can quickly and easily help identify symptoms. Visit checker.


BV may need to be treated. Not just because of the uncomfortable symptoms, but BV has been linked to some more serious health implications. If you think you have BV and you are pregnant you should talk to your doctor or midwife as there may be a different bacteria involved which can cause complications.

Treatment options

There are a variety of effective treatment options available, including antibiotics and over the counter vaginal gels, pessaries and alternative remedies.

Over the counter remedies are a good option to treat BV in the first instance, like Balance Activ which contains a unique combination of lactic acid and glycogen. The lactic acid helps to combat BV and the glycogen provides nutrients to help the good bacteria regrow, maintain and restore your natural balance.  Some women say that it has an instant effect, calming the vagina and relieving symptoms.

Recurrence of BV could be due to many factors, including the use of antibiotics as they can alter intimate pH – leaving women in a cycle of treatment and cause. But recurrence could also be down to the fact there is a different kind of bacteria involved, in which instance you should talk to your GP about a bacterial test.

Helen continues

“If you understand the correct symptoms to watch out for, then it’s much easier to determine whether you are suffering from BV. So, if your vagina itches, smells distinctly with a fishy odour and/or has an usual discharge – then BV could be the cause. Ultimately, the vagina is self-cleaning, but it is also a delicate environment which can so easily be disrupted by factors that upset its natural balance.”

The reality is that most women will experience BV at some point in their lives. The great news is that there is a simple and effective treatment available over the counter, which means that antibiotics can be reserved for persistent symptoms, where you must then see your GP.

In summary, Helen recommends these simple three steps to successfully diagnosing and treating BV. More information and advice on how to identify and treat BV is available here

*post in collaboration with Balance Activ


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