I particularly don’t like Gynaes, because of having to spread my legs for a pelvic examination. It always brings up memories of my first ever pelvic examination on my first labour day. I just prepare for pain, even though none has ever been as painful as that first time.
Between last year August, when I had a one-of-a-kind crampy episode, and now, I have had to see a doctor more times than I would like, that it started to give me serious concerns and it all had to do with ‘down there’.
The first round of tests I did showed there were no issues anywhere. So where did the crippling cramps come from? We entered into the realm of speculations, infection from my IUCD, STD, and the list goes on.
I had similar, albeit less painful, cramps some months later, returned to the hospital, did more tests, yet nothing was found. This time, the doctor speculated again and this time, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) was mentioned. Again, I went through some painful injection routines and oral medications.
All the while, I was reading up on my symptoms and Dr. Google was diagnosing, sometimes, it fit the description and at other times, it just didn’t fit, but one thing that I always come back to is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) sounds scary, right? Yes, it does and the time you have to live with it can be very uncomfortable, but thankfully, it’s a very common and easily treatable condition.
BV is the most common cause of vaginal infections in women of childbearing age. So, you can imagine, a lot of women are worried about the impact of bacterial vaginosis (BV) on their fertility.
Although it’s not technically a sexually transmitted disease, women who recently changed sex partners and those who have more than one partner tend to get BV more easily than other women.
Let’s get some background about BV. Normally, the vagina is acidic. This acidity helps prevent bad bacteria from growing and maintains the level of good bacteria called lactobacillus. If the pH balance becomes less acidic however, this can affect the health of the vagina.
Different factors like getting your period, taking antibiotics, over-washing, using an IUD (intrauterine device), douching, and even semen, if you have sex without a condom, can affect the pH balance of the vagina.
The imbalance in pH can be accompanied by overgrowth of anaerobic organisms that replace normal lactobacilli, causing BV.
Women prone to BV
Some women get BV a lot more easily than other women.
- For instance, pregnant women tend to get BV more easily than other women and you can only blame that on the massive changes going on in their bodies as well as down there. It is not so surprising that the equilibrium of the different flora of bacteria existing in the vagina may be off balance and that can be all the invite that a BV needs.
- Women who change sex partners. The new dynamics can change the situation down there
- Women who use feminine hygiene products like douches and sprays are prone to BV
- Women who are smokers increase their susceptibility to BV
- Having an unhealthy diet may be a call to BV
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD). This birth control device, which fits inside your uterus, has been linked to BV; especially if irregular bleeding is present
- Chances of developing BV or having a chronic case are higher in women with compromised immune system than others.
Getting rid of BV
To get rid of BV for good, you might need to make some lifestyle changes (like kicking the smoking habit already!!!) and then looking for ways to boost your immune system.
That means eating well and exercising, getting plenty of rest and keeping stress from taking over your life.
Some women swear by probiotics (healthy bacteria taken in supplement form) for keeping all their lady bits in tip-top shape.
Are there any complications?
Yes, there are, even though most of the time, BV doesn’t cause any other problems. But in some cases, it can lead to other issues, impacting on a woman’s fertility.
According to Webmd, these issues include:
Sexually transmitted infection (STI):
Having BV makes it easier for you to get an STI like herpes, chlamydia, or gonorrhoea. If you already have HIV, BV increases your chances of passing it on to your partner.
If you have BV at the same time as a hysterectomy or other surgery on your female organs, you’re more likely to come down with a bacterial infection afterwards.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):
BV can lead to the infection of your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Having PID can make it harder to achieve conception, and when pregnancy occurs, the risk of ectopic pregnancy is high.
However, there is good news. BV doesn’t often lead to PID, as it’s very, very unusual for a woman to have that level of infection without symptoms. Oftentimes, there would have been warning signs that would warrant her going to the doctor for treatment long before the infection spreads.
Problems with IVF:
If you have BV while you’re going through fertility treatments, the chance of having a successful cycle is lower.
Problems during your pregnancy:
Miscarriage during the first 23 weeks is more likely if you have BV. Risk of preterm birth is also present where BV is present. Or the baby can even have a low birth weight.
On a last note, it is not uncommon for BV to return after it has been treated.
If it does, you’ll likely need to take antibiotics again for a longer period of time or you can just get on a probiotics, which many women swear by.
Food for thought.
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