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How Bacterial Vaginosis Complicates Your Life

How Bacterial Vaginosis Complicates Your Life

The mere presence of any kind of infection makes you experience a lot of emotions, but bacterial vaginosis also causes other complications – physical and dangerous in some instances.


BV and Pregnancy


Even a pregnant woman can get BV, which becomes a risk for the unborn child as well as the mother if left untreated.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, Bacterial Vaginosis is found in over one million pregnant women, more than Herpes, Chlamydia or other sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s & Pregnancy, CDC fact sheet).


BV during pregnancy is not unusual. The American Pregnancy Association reports that 10% to 30% of women have BV during the course of their pregnancies. 


That shatters the myth that BV cannot be contracted during pregnancy.


Unless a woman reports BV type symptoms, many physicians do not screen for this infection.


A woman can be pro-active for her health and that of her unborn child by insisting that the physicians conduct this simple BV screening as a precaution.


Bacteria have a nasty habit of spreading so when a pregnant woman has BV, the bacteria can move into the womb or fallopian tubes.  At that point, the bacteria becomes an infection known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Left untreated, PID is a leading cause of infertility as well as ectopic pregnancy.


Another risk factor for pregnant women who have BV is premature delivery or a baby with low birth weight. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that any woman with a history of low-birth-weight babies or premature delivery needs to be tested for BV early in the next pregnancy.


There are antibiotic treatments that can be taken by many pregnant women without harm to the baby. The choice of antibiotics needs to be left to the Obstetrician who knows the woman’s overall health and determine potential risks to the unborn baby.


BV and Infertility


Women who want to get pregnant but are not conceiving begin to search aggressively for the problem. If all the basic equipment for conception and carrying a baby are intact, then the fertility specialist begins to look for other conditions that can be treated.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a condition that is on the rise among women of childbearing age.  PID can so drastically damage the fallopian tubes and uterus that pregnancy is impossible or if pregnancy occurs, the danger for ectopic pregnancy is extreme.


When the egg gets trapped in a fallopian tube that is damaged or twisted from infection, the pregnancy will not develop. If left undetected, the tube will eventually burst from the pressure of the growing egg.


There is usually no warning that what is assumed to be a normal pregnancy is actually an ectopic pregnancy.  So, when the tube ruptures immediate medical care is necessary. This type of miscarriage can also be life threatening to the mother.


What many women don’t know is that Bacterial Vaginosis is an infection, which left untreated, can lead to the development of Pelvic Inflammatory disease, a serious medical problem.


The irritating BV symptoms that seem to interfere with an active social life in younger ages may be the death knell to the dream of having a healthy baby a few years later if PID causes permanent damage to the reproductive system.


This dangerous connection with PID is another reason that BV cannot be ignored or taken lightly. Once PID sets in, a woman is not just at risk for infertility but for other serious medical consequences.


Is There Any Sex Life With BV?


Because BV creeps up before the serious symptoms signal the presence of the infection, women are involved in an active sex life as BV is developing. For some women, it’s a comment from a partner about the fishy odor or the sticky discharge that alerts them to the problem if no other symptoms are felt.


When BV mixes with semen, it’s like the kind of gross smell from a chemical reaction that cleared the chemistry lab in high school.  This situation can be embarrassing and lead to a shy goodbye.


Who can feel sexy and alluring knowing that once the clothes come off, the partner may be turned off by the foul-smelling vaginal discharge?


Just the fear of being rejected because of BV is enough to test the relationship.


Explaining the BV condition is taking the honest approach, which may or may not be well received.


Some women are concerned that to even admit to a vaginal infection will cause the partner to think that it’s really something worse – like HIV - and shun them.


Another real turn-off is when a woman makes repeated trips to the bathroom in an effort to wash away the discharge or add perfumed lotions to counteract the BV smell that distracts from the moment.


The worst idea is to use scented vaginal lubricants as a way to mask the foul odor from the BV. It’s like attempting to camouflage the smell of burned food with a floral spray. The mixture is totally disgusting, even worse than the initial bad smell.


As an infection, BV causes the vagina to be tender, stretched and uncomfortable with vaginal intercourse. Faking an orgasm is one thing, but faking enjoyment when the entire vaginal area is as irritated as a third-degree sunburn isn’t happening. Talk about ruining the romantic scene - the symptoms of BV can certainly do that.


BV and STD – Are They the Same?


Because BV is also found among women who have multiple sex partners (male or female). For that reason, some medical researchers classify BV as a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).


In other research, BV is not considered an STD. So, the question is unclear about whether having sex when a woman knows that she has BV is dangerous to the partner. Perhaps the danger is greater for the woman who already has BV than it is for her partner.


There is also medical evidence that BV frequently occurs soon after starting a relationship with a new sex partner. While there is no proof that a woman with BV can infect her partner, the woman can benefit from sexual abstinence while treating the BV.


When a woman has BV, she is at higher risk of contracting HIV from her partner, particularly during unprotected sexual activity.  If a woman already has HIV and BV, then she is more likely to pass HIV to her partner.


BV is different from HIV, yet because BV causes irritation to the vaginal wall tissues, it is easier for the HIV virus to pass into the bloodstream. Some of the good bacteria that might have attempted to protect a healthy vagina are so diminished that they are overcome by the tougher HIV virus.


Contracting HIV isn’t the only heightened danger that a woman faces with untreated BV. She is also at risk for other STDs such as herpes or Chlamydia. These STD’s come with their own set of unpleasant symptoms and long-term risks to health and fertility.


Since sexual activity changes the vaginal environment with the introduction of semen and potentially other bacteria from the partner, taking a break from sex to get the BV under control makes sense. It may not be the popular choice but it is the safe choice.


BV and Surgery


Because any surgical procedure carries the risk for infection, surgeries in the vaginal area can leave behind the conditions for developing BV. If a woman already has BV, which may not be diagnosed, then the surgery compounds the infection problem.


The need for BV testing during pregnancy is even more important if there is a likelihood that the baby will be delivered by Caesarean section. An emergency    C-section can happen too fast for testing. However, if there is any discussion of a   C-section delivery early in the prenatal care, a woman needs to request that she receive a test for BV.


BV has also been shown to be a risk in post abortion recovery, hysterectomy or any other surgery involving a woman’s reproductive system.  Even if a woman is in a hurry to get done with a particular reproductive surgery, she needs to be tested and treated for BV symptoms.


Never ignore these symptoms as something that will pass without further attentions. A BV infection can become worse as well as delay the recovery from any surgical procedure.


In a worst-case scenario, the BV infection could compound other post-surgical problems and the result can actually be a life-threatening situation.


Particularly if the surgeon is not also the OB-GYN, then he or she may not be aware of prior instances of BV.


So even if you suspect BV or some other infection, don’t ignore it, tell the surgeon prior to any operation.


Conditions Made Worse By BV


If a woman already has certain medical conditions, the incidence of BV can be even harder to manage and to cure.  Those conditions are:


·         Chronic yeast infection – This condition alters the balance of bacteria in the vagina setting up the ideal conditions for development of BV. Prescription treatments for yeast infection are designed to wipe out harmful bacteria but plenty of good bacteria is also lost during this treatment.


·         Low estrogen levels   - When the estrogen levels are below normal, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and more prone to infection


·         High estrogen levels - Taking birth control pills is the usual reason that estrogen levels are above normal in women who are otherwise healthy.  Of course, the other reason for high estrogen is when a woman is pregnant.  Higher levels of estrogen seem to be associated with greater risk for infection.


·         Pregnancy – When the hormones bounce around in pregnancy and estrogen goes into over-drive, the conditions are ripe for BV. As already mentioned, the treatment options need to be carefully considered to avoid any harm to the unborn baby.


·         Allergic reactions - Women who are allergic to certain oral or vaginal antibiotics have limited options for treating BV. These women may not be able to tolerate the most powerful prescription drugs and must turn to alternative medicine or natural treatment options.


·         Lupus, HIV or other autoimmune disease – The nature of an autoimmune disease is that the body’s disease fighting power is greatly diminished.  Under those conditions, BV is just one of many vaginal infections that can easily multiply and become a chronic condition.


How Physicians View BV


Bacterial Vaginosis is often mis-diagnosed as yeast infection because the symptoms are similar. Since Gynecologists see so many yeast infection problems, it’s easy for them to accept this as the problem and not even order a BV test.


Some doctors are also quick to blame too much sex or unprotected sex as the cause of the infection and advise women to deal with those issues so the problem goes away. Of course, BV doesn’t go away that easily.


Women who are not sexually active have been extremely embarrassed when a physician confronts them about sex practices as the cause of the infection.


Feeling as if they are being accused of stepping outside their personal moral boundaries, they don’t go back to the doctor for help when the infection reoccurs because they don’t want to hear this again.


Male physicians can be the least sensitive about the discomfort of BV. They either don’t see this as a serious problem or believe that the women have the responsibility to make lifestyle changes in order to control the infection.


The other problem is that physicians can have favored drugs that they prescribed for any vaginal infection. While these antibiotics may be fine for some uses, the drugs can be excessive for BV.


When the drug choices are not well targeted, the overload of drugs causes major damage to the good bacteria that is needed to balance the vaginal environment.


Are physicians being ambivalent about treating BV? Yes and no. Yes, physicians are relying on the old standard approach to use heavy-duty antibiotics to knock out the infection. 


No, they are not uncaring. However, some are less informed about the fine line differences between Bacterial Vaginosis and the typical yeast infection.


Pharmaceutical companies applaud the massive antibiotic approach because it sells more drugs. When the drugs become overkill and set up the conditions for a reoccurrence of BV, then more prescription drugs are sold.


It seems as if the drug companies profit more the longer the treatment drags on. That is expensive for the woman who is ready to try anything just to get relief.

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