Dr George Moncrieff advises against taking long hot baths
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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) develops when the balance of anaerobic bacteria and lactobacilli in the vagina is disturbed, causing the vagina to be less acidic than usual. Doctor Hayley Willacy said BV can lead to watery discharge that has a “stronger” than usual smell. Sometimes, especially after sexual intercourse, the smell can be described as “fishy”.
Doctor Willacy added that this “can be distressing and make women feel unclean”.
For some, women may attempt to wash their delicate area with more perfumed soap, which will only make things worse.
Doctor Willacy wanted to stress that BV “is not caused by poor hygiene”.
In fact, it is the excessive washing of the vagina that may alter the natural balance of bacteria that leads to BV.
The signs of BV
- White-grey discharge that has a fishy smell
- The smell may be more noticeable after sex
- The discharge tends to be heaviest just after a period, or sex
- Pain during intercourse.
The normal pH of the vagina is between 3.8 to 4.5; as soon as the pH increases past 4.5, the balance of bacteria in the vagina is disturbed.
A less acidic environment leads to an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, which grows without air, and lactobacilli (which maintains the acidity) starts to die off.
The use of harsh and fragrant soaps are not the only triggers of BV, with the risk of the condition increasing if you:
- Use bubble bath
- Use perfumed lubricants during intercourse
- Wear thongs or nylon tights for long periods
- Use intimate hygiene products.
Doctor Willacy said: “The body is often very good at getting back its own balance.”
Thus, with time, the body may naturally correct the disturbance of bacteria in the vagina.
This is true of mild symptoms, but if you smell a fishy odour, then treatment is needed.
Treatments for BV are available over-the-counter, in stores such as Boots.
To help prevent BV from returning, there are many recommendations by Doctor Willacy.
Suggestions include not pushing water into the vagina (known as douching), and not adding bath oils, scented soaps, perfumed bubble baths, or shampoos to bath water.
It will also help to “not use strong detergents to wash your underwear” and to only wash around your vagina and vulva “once a day” using “gentle soaps and water”.
The use of perfumed “intimate hygiene” products should be ceased, and showers – rather than baths – are recommended.
The NHS emphasised that BV “is not an STI [sexually transmitted infection]”.
BV can, however, be triggered by sex. Meanwhile, the condition can lead to a small chance of complications in pregnancy.
Thus, if you are pregnant and have BV, do tell your midwife, as the risk of premature birth is marginally increased.
Treatment for pregnant women who have BV tends to be the prescription of oral antibiotics.
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