If you’ve ever dealt with bacterial vaginosis symptoms in the past, you’re far from alone. Research shows that about 1 in every 5 women will experience this type of infection by the time they’ve reached their mid-forties.
According to a study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an estimated 21.2 million women between the ages of 15-49 years old living in the U.S, tested positive for bacterial vaginosis infection at one point during the three-year period of the study. That’s almost 30 percent of the total female American population in this age group, (1) A high percentage of women who tested positive for vaginosis didn’t notice any symptoms or signs at all. But, others dealt with vaginosis symptoms like unusual discharge, burning or painful sensations, and vaginal odor.
Why is bacterial vaginosis (also called BV) so common? Risk factors for vaginal infections include sexual activity (especially with multiple partners), pregnancy, and being more susceptible to all sorts of infections or viruses due to living an unhealthy lifestyle that impairs immune function.
Below you’ll find tips for vaginal infection prevention and home treatments to help resolve symptoms or pain. I’ve also included suggestions about making improvements to things like like your diet and stress levels in order to prevent common vaginal problems, such as yeast infections or urinary tract infections, from reoccurring.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection that affects young-to-middle age women most often. Women who are most susceptible to conditions affecting the reproductive organs are those who have an active sex life, impaired or weakened immune system, or women who are currently pregnant. This includes vaginosis, yeast infections or sexually transmitted diseases. (2)
Other names that vaginosis goes by include Gardnerella vaginitis and vaginal bacteriosis. What are the causes of a bacterial infection affecting the vagina? The underlying reason that BV develops is due to a disturbance of normal vaginal microflora. This includes bacteria and yeast that are present inside every woman’s body. This happens for various reasons. These include some due to abnormal responses of the immune system and changes in the pH balance of the vagina. Inside the vagina is normally slightly acidic, with a pH between 3.8–4.2. A pH higher than 4.5 is overly alkaline, which contributes to bacterial vaginosis.
Surprisingly, a very high percentage of women with BV do not report having any symptoms. This is true of up to 84 percent of all women afflicted, according to some studies. Because bacterial vaginosis symptoms to be mild or even non-existent, most women with BV are unaware that they have an infection. So, they don’t seek treatment. Others might have some symptoms, but feel embarrassed to get help. Or, they might be confused about the cause of their uncomfortable symptoms. For example, they might assume that symptoms are due to a yeast infection that will go away on its own.
Unfortunately, even though the infection might not cause discomfort or pain for many women, having BV that remains untreated puts a woman at an increased risk of acquiring other problems that affect the reproductive organs and immune system. These include: various sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), other types of infections, and potentially complications during pregnancy or delivery. (3)