Have you ever had an unusual vaginal discharge with a fish-like odour that made you very uncomfortable for many weeks? If you did, you probably had Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).

So what exactly is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)? 
BV is a common bacterial infection often caused by Gardnerella vaginalis, an anaerobic organism in the vagina. BV is caused when this bad bacteria outgrows the good bacteria known as lactobacilli in your vagina. 

BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, however the risk of being infected by the organism increases with sexual activity.

BV does not often show any symptoms, but when they do, you may notice any of the following:
- Thin, grey or white vaginal discharge
- Unpleasant fishy odour from the vagina
- Irritation and itching (less common)
- Burning sensation while peeing 

WHAT PUTS ME AT RISK FOR BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS?Some of the factors that increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis include:
- Being sexually active
- Sex with multiple partners
- Activities that disrupt the vaginal microbiome like douching, using vaginal deodorant or scented soaps.
- Unsafe sex practices, such as unprotected sex with new partners

How can a person end up being infected with bacterial vaginosis?
Our body is made up of a balance of good and bad bacteria, coexisting in what is known as the normal body flora. These bacteria interact with each other and help maintain normal body function at an optimal level. 

The vagina is not an exception to this normal flora, therefore when the bad bacteria in the vagina keep growing without restriction and become more than the good ones, then it becomes a problem and one of such is BV. 
Any product or activity that can tamper the normal flora could affect the bacteria in your vagina and trigger BV.

Your body could fight the BV infection on its own, however this poses a threat known as complications.

Some complications that have been linked to BV include:
- Other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia etc.
- Higher risk of post-operative infection in the reproductive organs
- Preterm birth in pregnant women
- Miscarriage
- Infertility
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

As we mentioned earlier, BV is caused when bad bacteria outgrows the good ones. So for you to prevent yourself from getting BV, all you need to do is to avoid anything that will disrupt the normal vaginal flora. 

These include:
- Avoid douching, that is, do not use soap and water inside your vagina to scrub it clean
- Practice safe sex, especially with a new partner.
- Desist from sex with multiple partners
- Avoid using products that disrupt the vaginal flora like vaginal deodorant, scented soaps etc.
- Avoid sharing sex toys or use condoms on toys before using them

Kemuel Kefas

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