Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by the overgrowth of anaerobic or “bad” bacteria. There are usually bad and good bacteria in the vagina. The good bacteria help to disinfect the vagina, hence maintaining normal balance of vaginal microorganisms.  When the bad bacteria e.g. Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma or Mobiluncus outnumber the good bacteria e.g. lactobacilli, then the vaginal balance is disrupted and the good bacteria will be unable to perform their functions efficiently.

E.coli – a cause of bacterial vaginosis

Another cause of bacterial vaginosis is E.coli. This is a bacterium which is usually found in the rectum. It spreads to the vaginal area by wiping from back to front when using the rest room.   The first symptoms which you will begin to notice are:

  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge
  • Grayish or whitish discharge
  • Vaginal itching and irritation.

However, not all women who have BV develop these symptoms; this is Asymptomatic BV. So chances are high that most women have BV and they don’t know it!

Despite the availability of antibiotics like metronidazole or Clindamycin, which can be used to successfully treat BV, you will find that most women never manage to get rid of their BV permanently. This is because BV is usually recurrent in nature and comes back within 3-6 months after treatment. So instead of looking for that treatment which will get rid of BV permanently (which has not been developed yet) you can opt for the second best option. And that is focusing on the root causes of BV.

Myths about causes of bacterial vaginosis

From what I have discussed above, we have established that it is the imbalance of vaginal microorganisms that causes BV. So what causes or leads to this imbalance? That is what I shall explain to you below. But before doing that, there are several myths about causes of bacterial vaginosis that need to be cleared out.

  • One is that you cannot get BV from toilet seats or beddings that an infected person had used.
  • Secondly, it cannot be transmitted through swimming pools or touching objects around you.

Here are some of the common factors which can cause vaginal imbalance thereby causing BV.

1. Douching

This is the normally the primary cause of BV in most women. It involves washing the vagina with medicated solutions or other solutions that comprise of water, baking powder and vinegar. This is more common in some cultures than others and in fact women from these cultures are known to suffer from BV more than others. The primary reasons for douching are believed to be:

  • Eliminate odor and stinky discharge
  • Help you to feel fresh after menstruation.
  • Avoid sexual diseases
  • Avoid Pregnancy.

Although some of the reasons for douching are legitimate, it is generally recommended to seek advice from a gynecologist before using such products. All in all, the act of douching disrupts the chemical balance in the vagina thus facilitating the growth of bad bacteria.

2. Poor Hygiene

As stated earlier, wiping from back to front when using the restroom will spread the E.coli from the rectum to the vagina. Also if the vital organs are not regularly cleaned, it will increase the chances of infection. Tight and damp clothes help in preventing air from reaching the vagina, thus facilitating the growth of anaerobic bacteria which thrive in such conditions. Likewise scented soaps and vaginal deodorants will also cause BV.

3. Unprotected Sex

Having unprotected sex especially with multiple partners can lead to bacterial vaginosis. This is because semen which is alkaline in nature lowers the acidity of the vagina thereby increasing the risk of developing BV.

4. Improper Lifestyle

Stress, lack of sleep or working for long hours causes intense hormonal changes in the body which facilitates the growth of harmful microbes in the body. Stress is also known to weaken the immune system. Hence the body can no longer defend itself effectively against the bad bacteria in the vagina.

5. Prolonged Periods

It has been noted that women normally use antibiotics for BV during their periods. This is because the blood from your periods affects the acidity of the vagina which can lead to infection. So if your periods are heavy or prolonged you should go and see a doctor.

6. Birth Control Measures

Consumption of birth control drugs or insertion of an intrauterine device in the uterus can make a woman more susceptible to BV.

7. Unbalanced Diet

Apart from a weakened immune system, a poor diet can also lead to sudden hormonal changes which increase the risk of infection in the vagina. So ensure that you eat a healthy balanced diet and reduce intake of fat.

If you are able to avoid all these causes then you will be less susceptible to develop bacterial vaginosis.

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