If you've ever had bacterial vaginosis (BV) before, you know how uncomfortable it can make you feel. However, once you know the causes of BV, it's much easier to avoid, and it's surprisingly easy to treat!
Bacterial vaginosis is an extremely common bacterial infection that most women will experience at least once in their lives. Fortunately, the bacteria that cause BV, Gardnerella vaginalis, is easy to treat with antibiotics, and once you're done with the medication, you can slip back into your cute underwear again.
So just what is BV and why do you get it? Let's talk about where the Gardnerella bacteria come from, how to prevent getting it—and if you do have it, how to quickly get rid of this annoying infection.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
In order to understand how you get a Gardnerella infection, it's important to learn more about the chemistry that goes on inside of the vagina. A healthy vagina has a mix of bacteria and fungus that all serve a specific role. Lactobacillus bacteria is one of the "good" bacteria that helps to keep the pH of the vagina balanced, and other "bad" bacteria and yeast from overgrowing.
However, when something causes the pH of the vagina to go off balance, the Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria takes over and starts to overgrow. When this happens, you end up with a Gardnerella bacterial infection. You may notice burning and itching down there and lots of discharge inside of your underwear—some patients report having to change a couple times a day!
Keep in mind that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease. It's an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina that is easily treated. Sometimes, you might confuse the symptoms of BV with a yeast infection because they can present similar symptoms. However, a yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of vaginal yeast instead of bacteria. Different overgrowths, different treatments. Make sure to be specific with symptoms when talking to your doctor to ensure you are prescribed the right medication!
How Do You Get a Gardnerella Infection?
As we talked about, a Gardnerella infection is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria of the Gardnerella bacteria. Common causes of this bacterial infection include:
- Douching. The pH of the vagina normally keeps bacteria in check, so it doesn't overgrow. However, when you douche, especially if using scented products, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar, the douching formula throws off the pH level of the vagina.
- Overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics used to target infections elsewhere in the body can kill the good bacteria, lactobacillus, which keep vaginal Gardnerella under control. Taking probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics may help in maintaining a healthy bacterial balance in your vagina. Note: Metronidazole, the antibiotic used to treat BV, may still be required to correct the Gardnerella overgrowth
- Having multiple sex partners, or a new sex partner. It appears that the more sexually active you are, the higher the risk of getting Gardnerella vaginitis. In addition, women who have sex with other women tend to get BV more frequently.
- Not wiping properly. Bacteria can easily spread from the back of your pelvic region to the front, so wiping from the front of your bottom to the back can help reduce the chance of bacterial spread.
What Are the Symptoms of Gardnerella Infection?
Sometimes, you might not even know you have Gardnerella, but the most common symptoms of Gardnerella vaginitis (AKA BV) are:
- Foul-smelling vaginal odor. If you have a fishy smelling discharge, especially after sex, that's a pretty good sign you have BV.
- Thin, gray, white or green vaginal discharge.The discharge is a result of the body trying to eliminate the bacteria, and the color is caused by the bacterial infection.
- Burning when you urinate or have intercourse. The overgrowth of bacteria causes swelling and irritation in the vagina, which causes painful urination and intercourse.
- Your vagina and vulva itch. The irritation from the bacteria causes your vagina and outer parts of the vulva to itch and burn.
How Is Gardnerella Diagnosed?
If you have any of the symptoms discussed above, it's important to contact your doctor or seek an online medical consultation immediately. A doctor can provide an online consultation, so you don't have to leave the privacy of your home to visit the doctor, and within hours your meds will be processed. During your online consultation, we'll ask about your symptoms and medical history to determine if you have Gardnerella. Once we determine that your infection is from the Gardnerella bacteria, we'll prescribe the proper medication and have it shipped discreetly to your home. Alternatively, you can select same day pickup and drop by your local pharmacy to begin treatment immediately.
What Is the Treatment for Gardnerella?
Treatment is super easy! Generally, you'll be prescribed an oral antibiotic, or an antibiotic cream that you can apply to your vagina at bedtime. Our doctors at wisp will prescribe the most effective FDA-approved medication based on your BV symptoms. Be sure to take the full dose of the medicine for the time prescribed, even if the symptoms go away. Sometimes, you can get a yeast infection after taking antibiotics. If you develop one, a wisp doctor will prescribe the proper treatment and medicine and send it discreetly to your home.
Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Gardnerella?
Gardnerella is super easy to treat, so normally you won't have any health risks. But, if you don't get it treated you could experience some of these health risks:
- Getting an HIV infection. Prolonged bacterial vaginosis can increase susceptibility to HIV.
- Getting an STD. Bacterial vaginitis can make an individual more susceptible to STDs and infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or herpes.
- Risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Left unchecked, the bacteria can infect the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. If the fallopian tubes get scarred from the infection, a the risk of infertility increases.
- Low birth weight if you're pregnant. If you have untreated BV during your pregnancy, there's a risk of a premature or low birth weight baby.
How Can I Prevent Getting Gardnerella?
Prevention is fairly easy, especially if you follow these helpful tips:
- Don't douche
- Don't use vaginal deodorants or fragrances
- Wipe from front to back after using the restroom
- Eat healthily and exercise
There's no reason BV should keep you from your life. Use wisp to get fast online treatment and get your meds delivered to your door, or sent to your local pharmacy for same-day pick up. If you have additional questions about your BV, take our Symptoms Quiz to connect with one of wisp's healthcare professionals. We're happy to help you find the right treatment to clear up your BV and stop it from coming back.