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How does bacterial vulvovaginitis affect the body?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Bacterial vulvovaginitis occurs when there is an abundance of certain "bad" bacteria in the body. The vagina normally houses a number of different bacteria, including "good" bacteria that produce chemicals such as H2O2. Symptoms of bacterial vulvovaginitis occur when the vagina's levels of the bacteria Lactobacillus sp. are low, while levels of the anaerobic bacteria Prevotella sp. and Mobiluncus sp., as well as other "bad" bacteria (G. vaginalis, and Mycoplasma hominis) are increased. The imbalance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the vagina causes harmful side effects such as irritation of the vagina.

Studies show that bacterial vulvovaginitis infections are common in women who are pregnant. Treatment is crucial for pregnant women who experience bacterial vulvovaginitis symptoms and those who do not. A bacterial infection of the vagina during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature delivery or a low birth weight. Similarly, a bacterial infection may spread from the vagina to the uterus or the fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This can result in abnormal pregnancies or even future infertility.

Researchers have also found that women with HIV who experience symptoms of bacterial vulvovaginitis run a higher risk of passing HIV to their sexual partner. Women with bacterial vulvovaginitis also have an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Shelley C. Giebel, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can affect the body in several ways. You may have a "foul smelling" discharge that can get worse as you try to clean the affected area. Discharge is often described as "slimmy"  and can cause irritation on the outer parts of the genitalia as well as the inside. People often describe this discomfort as "raw" which is in contrast to people who complain of "itching" which is more often caused by a yeast infection.

It is important to seek medical care to get the right treatment. Finally, the most important way to prevent the condition from coming back is to replenish the natural healthy bacteria in the vagina. Probiotics or lactobacillus, or acidophilus can be taken in pill form, drink or in yogurt.  Replenishing the healthy bacteria takes time, so to prevent an infection from returning, stay on the healthy bacteria at least a month, preferably more.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.