Bacterial Vaginosis During Pregnancy

It is estimated that close to 30% of pregnant women will experience bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition which is caused by the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria like Gardnerella vaginalis in the vagina. Normally there exist both good and bad bacteria in the vagina. It is the work of the good bacteria e.g. lactobacilli to disinfect the vagina by killing the bad bacteria. However, if the good bacteria are killed due to external factors such as use of certain medications then the bad bacteria will multiply uncontrollably and cause swelling and reddening around the vagina.

Pregnant women are more susceptible to catching BV than non-pregnant women. This is because during pregnancy there is a greater flow of blood into the vagina causing an increase of PH in the vagina thus facilitating the growth of anaerobic bacteria which thrive in alkaline conditions.

Is Bacterial Vaginosis Dangerous to Pregnant Women?

Having BV especially when you are pregnant poses a real danger to you and your baby. These risks may include:

a) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - BV has been linked to an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) although non-pregnant women have a higher risk of contracting this disease. PID causes damage to the tissues inside the female reproductive system which may cause ectopic pregnancy.

b) Miscarriage – A few studies show a connection between BV and second-trimester miscarriage.

c) Increased susceptibility to STD’s – BV will make you more susceptible to certain STD’s like gonorrhea, Chlamydia and HIV, if you are exposed to them.

d) Post-Surgical Infection – Uterine infections after delivery is also possible. In severe cases it can lead to hysterectomy.

Other less severe risks that are as a result of BV

- Preterm birth.
- A low birth weight baby.

Common symptoms for bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy

How do you know you have bacterial vaginosis? Well here are some common symptoms you should watch out for:

Vaginal Discharge. Inspecting vaginal discharge is the best way for detecting BV. Normal discharge is normally white to transparent and odorless. But during pregnancy it may be dark, brown or thicker. So if the discharge starts to have a distinct fishy smell and becomes gray in color you should go and see a doctor.

• Irritation and Itching around the vagina area. The itching is normally not severe.

• Burning sensation during urination.

• Light vaginal bleeding and sometimes pain during intercourse.

Over 85% of women with BV do not have these symptoms; therefore, if you are pregnant you are advised to be tested for BV at least once every 6 weeks. One of the most common tests for BV is the whiff test. This is done by mixing a drop or two of potassium hydroxide solution with a teaspoon of collected vaginal secretion. If odor which is produced is fishy then you have BV.

How to Avoid Bacterial Vaginosis during Pregnancy

They say prevention is better than cure, so if you want to prevent/minimize your chances of getting BV during pregnancy you can follow these few simple steps:

Do not douche. Washing the vagina with vaginal deodorants or scented soaps will only inhibit the good bacteria from disinfecting the vagina thus leaving you more susceptible to infections. You can only douche after seeking consultation from a specialist who will specify the best solution to use.

Eat a healthy diet. Not only is this good for pregnant women and their babies but it will also help to boost the immune system. Avoid eating foods which are rich in sugars and cholesterols during pregnancy. They will only increase your susceptibility to getting BV.

If you smoke, you should consider quitting the habit. Apart from obvious health reasons posed by smoking, it also increases your risk of getting BV. For pregnant women, smoking can cause other dangers besides BV to your baby.

Do not have unprotected sex. Unprotected sex with many partners will reduce the acidity in the vagina thus leaving you more susceptible to BV.

Wear cotton under wears which will help absorb the moisture in the vagina and allow the circulation of air.

Treatment for BV before, during or after pregnancy

Bacterial vaginosis is treatable even during pregnancy. The two main prescription drugs are:

Clindamycin – This is usually a cream which is applied to the vaginal area for seven days. This cream has certain oils which make latex condoms and diaphragms not work. So if you are on this medication avoid having sex.

Metronidazole – It is normally available as a pill which can be taken orally. Dosage may vary depending on which term you are in the pregnancy.

If you find out that antibiotics have adverse side effects on you, then go for natural treatments. Yoghurt, garlic and tea tree oil have been found to be very effective in treating bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. You can research more about natural treatments for BV to see which one works for you best. But always remember to get approval from a doctor before using any treatment.

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