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All you need to know about bacterial vaginosis

Many women find it embarrassing to talk about reproductive health, but it's important that your health does not suffer because you feel embarrassed or shy when it comes to sensitive topics. Bacterial vaginosis is a very common condition in women, and will affect about 1 in 3 people at some stage in their lives.

Despite being so common, bacterial vaginosis is not a very well understood condition. It is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. The vagina contains good bacteria that can prevent infection, but if there is an imbalance and the bad bacteria take over it can lead to bacterial vaginosis. The most common symptom is a fishy smelling grey discharge, although about half of women with the condition will not show symptoms. Other symptoms include discharge becoming thin, pain during sex and pain passing urine.

The cause is not really known. It is not classed as an STI but it is more common after having sex with a new partner. Health professionals have also linked bacterial vaginosis with vaginal deodorants, smoking, scented soaps and bubble baths. These can all upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina.

Although many women with bacterial vaginosis do not show any symptoms, it is considered to be low risk to health and screening is considered to be unnecessary.

It can be treated with antibiotics, which will clear up about 90% of cases. If these don’t work a GP will prescribe an alternative course. You may need to see a gynaecologist if you experience bacterial vaginosis several times in a short period.

If you notice any changes to your discharge or any of the other symptoms, make an appointment with your GP. Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis that exhibits symptoms can experience complications. However most professionals advise that if you have the condition but don't have any symptoms, there is no risk to your health and it will not affect the pregnancy.

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