Never heard of Bacterial Vaginosis? You're not alone. Many women automatically assume if something changes 'down there' they must have Thrush or worse. If you notice discomfort or a change in your nether regions there are 3 types of vaginal infection that need to be considered; a yeast infection (Thrush), bacterial infection (BV) or a trichomoniasis infection (Sexually Transmitted Disease)
What is BV?
Bacterial Vaginosis (or BV) was formally called gardnerella vaginalis and is a vaginal infection that is actually the most common cause of vaginal infection in women of childbearing age. BV occurs when there is a change in the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. Your vagina has a natural level of acidity which works to prevent bacteria from growing. This balance of acidity is your pH balance; if your pH balance is disrupted and the acidity level drops it can allow bacteria to take over.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, approximately 12% to 30% of adult women in the UK may be affected by BV; about 20% of pregnant women in the UK are affected.
What causes BV?
It is not entirely clear what causes BV and any woman can develop BV at any time. However, there are some things that can heighten the chances of your pH balance being disrupted such as douching or bathing with perfumed or antiseptic soaps and bubble solutions, having a new or multiple sexual partners, washing your underwear with strong detergents, your period and the use of tampons, and the use of vaginal deodorants.
Most common symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Hightened symptoms after sex or during your period
Your vagina is naturally slightly acidic and cleaning too thoroughly, for example by douching, can reduce this acidity; intefering with the vagina's pH levels and setting the stage for bacterial infections.
What is Thrush?
Thrush is a vaginal yeast infection from a group of fungi called Candida. You can have Candida in your vagina without it causing you any problem at all but if the natural pH balance in the vagina is disrupted, it can allow the Candida to take over.
What causes Thrush?
There are a number of things that can increase your chances of developing Thrush; pregnancy, wearing tight clothing or sythetic materials which prevent ventilation, taking some medications such as antibiotics, and the use of hygiene products which are heavily perfumed such as general soaps, showe gels and bubble bath solutions.
3 out of 4 women will have Thrush at some point in their lives. Men can also get genital Thrush but these cases are much less common.
Most common symptoms of Thrush
Itching and soreness around the entrance to the vagina
Stinging sentation when urinating
Many women mistake BV for vaginal Thrush but they are actually two very different types of infection which require different forms of treatment. If you think you may be suffering from either BV or Thrush for the first time, it's best to visit you GP. However, if you suffer with recurring BV or recurring Thrush and are able to recognise the symptoms, you can treat the problem at home.
Vaginal swabs are great for peace of mind and should be at the back of every woman's bathroom cabinet. These test your pH level and let you know quickly and easily if your vagina is 'off balance' to help identify and prevent infection. When something as simple as a body wash can upset your pH balance it demonstrates just how common BV can be; not to mention the hormone changes during pregnancy and menopause. Keep vaginal pH swab tests to hand and keep a check on your vaginal health. Find out more >
You can visit your GP if you think you may have Thrush, and if you've never had Thrush before we recommend you do; but you can also test yourself at home. The home Thrush tests that are available tend to involve a simple swab test and offer colour-coded results that are easy to read and up to 99% accurate. For many women, even if they've never had Thrush before, a home test is preferred followed by a trip to the GP if the test is positive, this way you can avoid any unnecessary embarrassment. Find out more >
If you think you symptoms could be that of something more that BV or Thrush and there's a chance you could have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) we recommend you visit your GP or local sexual health clinic. Here they will test you clinically and provide you with the medication you need to treat the infection. There will however be a delay in receiving your results and for this reason you may want to do you own at-home Chlamydia test
too for peace of mind in as little as 10 minutes but this should always be along side a test and treatment provided by a health professional.
Treating BV at home is easily with a good quality 'over-the-counter' BV treatment. There are a number of highly effective BV gels on the market that are easy to apply and effective in as little as 5 days. If you suffer with recurring BV, perhaps if it is triggered by sex or your period, keep a BV treatment gel in your medicine cabinet for fuss-free and fast treatment. Find out more >
Another treatment option is a Probiotic - these are taken orally and can be a great convenient alternative to treatments that require internal application. Probiotics like these promote overall vaginal health which means they can tackle BV, Thrush and even urinary tract infections; providing treatment and preventing reinfection.
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A simple change in habit could be enough to prevent or stop recurring BV or Thrush. Spending a little bit extra on underwear made from materials that are kind to your body could be all it takes. Another easy change is to use an intimate wash that is natural, unfragranced and pH balanced to keep your body in tune.
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Intimate wipes are great for maintaining your intimate hygiene on-the-go. Pop a pack in your bag for long journeys to keep everything fresh after sitting for pro-longed periods of time. If you suffer with recurring Thursh or BV, using an intimate wipe whenever you pop to the loo can help ease any paranoia of odour.
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