There’s nothing like the experience of childbirth to help you overcome any embarrassment related to the more intimate parts of your anatomy! Once you’ve experienced numerous examinations, literally at the hands of (wonderful!) midwives – sweeps, episiotomies, stitching – (not to mention the actual birth itself whether it was via the canal or c-section) – a regular smear test is a doddle!
Before my first experience of childbirth, I may have made reference, in chatting with friends, to having my period (with a roll of the eyes!) but since then we have shared many a giggle about pelvic floors, leaky bladders, designer vaginas etc. Yet, having reached childbearing age and even overcoming hurdles of embarrassment – why is it that so many of us women are unfamiliar with the most common vaginal condition affecting women of childbearing age – Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
To begin, check out Natashas real story about her experience with BV; sometimes hearing it from someone you can relate to can help resolve the stigma attached to things like this.
It’s estimated 1 in 3 women of childbearing age will experience BV, that’s 8.9 million women in the UK alone – so it is very common! Apparently, it is very common to misdiagnose BV as Thrush. Helen Knox, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Contraception and Sexual Health, explains:
“Most women know about thrush, but very few have heard of BV. While there are some differences in symptoms, such as a fishy smell that is caused by BV but not by thrush, many women will automatically reach for a thrush treatment when they have any vaginal irritation. This misdiagnosis results in, ineffective treatment and prolonged symptoms.”
“Many women look online to self-diagnose vaginal conditions – to ease their worries and get a better understanding of their symptoms before seeing a doctor. But it’s easy to come across inaccurate advice and misdiagnose symptoms for something else.”
“If you understand the correct symptoms to watch out for, then it’s much easier to determine whether you are suffering from BV and find the right treatment options.”
A healthy vagina is all about balance: it is home to millions of micro-organisms, and is normally good at keeping them stable. Lactobacillus is a ‘good’ bacteria that helps to stop other more harmful micro-organisms from growing, and maintains the pH (acid-alkaline) balance of your vagina. Ultimately, the vagina is self-cleaning, but it is also a delicate environment which can so easily be disrupted by factors that upset its natural balance.
When this balance gets disrupted, you’ll start to notice things aren’t quite right and you could be developing BV.
BV doesn’t mean you’re not clean – in fact soap, shower washes and even douches can upset your natural balance, and make BV more likely.
You can develop BV at any time, but it’s more likely to occur if your vagina, (which is an acidic environment) is disrupted by something that changes this natural pH balance – for example, semen – which is alkaline; or by using perfumed products or soaps; or even menstrual bleeding. Because the pH of this intimate area can so easily change due to many factors, it’s no surprise that BV is so common.
BV doesn’t need to be a problem.
There are a variety of effective treatment options available, including antibiotics and over the counter vaginal gels and pessaries. Balance Activ has been helping women successfully treat BV for over 10 years. It is a gentle formula that has been clinically proven to treat BV – and contains a unique combination of lactic acid and glycogen. The lactic acid helps to fight BV and the glycogen provides nutrients to help the good bacteria regrow and maintain your natural balance. You can use Balance Activ to maintain a healthy vagina when you’re run down, or if when taking antibiotics you think you are likely to get BV.
How can I be sure it is BV not Thrush?
To help women find clear and accurate information on vaginal health, Balance Activ has created the Intimate Health Taskforce (IHT) – a team of real women with experience of BV, along with Health Care Professionals united in their passion to raise awareness of BV, its symptoms and how to treat it. They have worked with the IHT to create articles and videos to inform and reassure women with vaginal health concerns along with an online symptom checker to help quickly and easily understand their symptoms – all available at www.balanceactiv.com.
Helen concludes; “if you are showing symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis, trying an over the counter lactic acid remedy like Balance Activ will do no harm. But if symptoms persist, see your GP as there may be another kind of bacteria involved that requires a different treatment”.
If you think you have BV and you are pregnant you should talk to your doctor or midwife as it may cause complications.