Bacterial vaginosis (BV) isn’t an STI in the traditional sense, as it’s strictly not passed from one partner to the next during sexual intercourse; but, having sex can make the risk of the infection more likely. The infection can develop as the result of an imbalance of vaginal flora, and although bacterial vaginosis isn’t necessarily uncomfortable, it can lead to serious complications later in life if the infection spreads to other areas of the reproductive system. BV can also make women more susceptible to other sexually transmitted infections.
How do you get it?
In order for the vagina to stay healthy, protected from other harmful bacteria, a balance needs to be maintained; if that balance is disturbed, infections can occur. Bacterial vaginosis isn’t caused by a single type of bacteria, but it develops if there is too much or too little of one or more types of bacteria inside the vagina. You cannot catch BV from someone else, but sexual activity can make it easier for bacteria to disturb the natural environment of the vagina.
An infection can also develop as a result of a change in vaginal pH balance through use of scented bubble baths, antiseptic liquids or strong detergents.
How is it diagnosed?
Many women do not report any noticeable symptoms at all so, to confirm diagnosis, a doctor will normally collect a sample and send it off for STI testing. BV testing is neither painful nor invasive, as you will only have to provide a urine sample or a swab of vaginal discharge for analysis.
However, some doctors may be comfortable providing a diagnosis based on your symptoms alone, if they are found to be present. Signs that you may have the infection could include a grey or white frothy discharge that’s accompanied by a fishy smell and is amplified after sex or just before menstruation; a burning sensation when you urinate; and itching around the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis testing
Bacterial vaginosis testing is straightforward and simple. You can take a swab or urine sample yourself, or go to your doctor or local GUM clinic where a sample can be collected and sent for analysis.
Sites such as The GUM Clinic provide safe reliable online testing, that works similarly to testing at your GUM clinic, except you can collect a sample in the comfort of your own home and send it off to the laboratory yourself. Samples will undergo PCR or culture testing methods to provide a diagnosis which will be sent straight to you.
Can bacterial vaginosis be cured?
Bacterial vaginosis is completely curable with the help of antibiotics such as Metronidazole, which is a seven day course of treatment which is available from STItreatment.co.uk. One course of treatment is usually enough to be effective, but to make sure that the infection is gone for good, it’s recommended that you complete an STI test at least two weeks after you’ve completed treatment.