Bacterial Vaginosis in Pregnancy – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Pregnancy is an experience… we would rather say a very interesting health journey that changes a woman’s life forever. Although, the outcome of these 9 months is a cherubic little human, it does come with lots of ups and downs. Stress, infection, hormonal changes, aches etc. are part and parcel of pregnancy. One of them is Bacterial Vaginosis that 10% – 30% of pregnant women suffer from.

Should Bacterial Vaginosis Concern a Pregnant Woman?

Not really!! Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a mild bacterial infection of the vagina that is caused by imbalance of good bacteria present in the vagina.

Our vagina contains certain ‘Good’ bacteria that keep our vulva and vaginal canal free from infections, caused by bad bacteria. During pregnancy, the hormonal changes may disrupt the growth of Good bacteria and when they grow less in numbers, the bad bacteria overpowers them and causes BV. This isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, but it’s linked with intercourse during pregnancy.

Bacterial Vaginosis in Pregnancy

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is usually a mild infection that goes away on its own in few days. However, at times it may grow into a serious issue if left untreated. So if symptoms persist more than a week, it is a good idea to consult your doctor.

Although, there is no clear reason as to why it happens. However, certain activities or things may trigger it to cause. Some of these activities or reasoning include: vaginal sex during pregnancy, having sex with more than one partner or vaginal douching. BV is not transmitted sexually, but since it is related to intercourse, it could be categorised in many STD’s columns.

Bacterial Vaginosis is common in women in general and is not specific to pregnant women only.

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis during Pregnancy?

The common symptom of this condition is smelly vaginal discharge. During pregnancy vaginal discharge is very natural. However, it is odourless and milky white in colour. So you don’t have to get all worked up just because there’s a discharge.

Pregnant women with Bacterial Vaginosis will see grayish white or yellow coloured vaginal discharge. Another sign of BV is a ‘fishy smell’ along with thin liquid, especially after sexual intercourse.

Most often bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy goes unnoticed and without any symptoms.

If you are not pregnant, yet you get abnormal vaginal discharge, it is not always linked to BV. Sometimes other infections, including certain STIs and yeast infection will produce similar symptoms.

How Will Bacterial Vaginosis Affect Women During Pregnancy?

It usually doesn’t have any serious health implications, unless;

  1. If you are pregnant, BV increases the risks of preterm labour or early delivery, miscarriage and uterine infection post-delivery.
  1. Other studies also show that BV is associated with low birth weights and premature rupture of membranes.
  1. If you are suffering from Bacterial Vaginosis when you are going through a caesarean delivery, an abortion or a hysterectomy, and any other gynaecological surgery, you will be prone to develop pelvic infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometris.
  1. Women who already have bacterial vaginosis have an increased risk of becoming infected with STDs, including HIV when they are exposed to such sexually transmitted infections.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis for Bacterial Vaginosis is done based on the symptoms, patient’s history, a vaginal examination and a sample test of vaginal discharge.

Lab test is the most accurate detector for BV. There are 3 common types of lab test for BV;

  1. Wet Mount – Sample is mixed with salt to check the white blood cells for ‘clue cells’
  2. Vaginal pH Test – Vaginal pH rise higher in BV (above 4.5)
  3. Whiff Test – Sample is mixed with potassium hydroxide to find if ‘fishy smell’ is produced.

Generally, pregnant women are not routinely screened or tested for Bacterial Vaginosis, unless there are symptoms. Then it becomes a compulsion. As per to U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is important for women who have had previous preterm labour to get screened for BV.

Treating BV will lower the risks of serious infection if you are planning to have a hysterectomy or any gynaecological surgery.

For most women Bacterial Vaginosis goes away without any treatment. But treatments usually include specific dosage of oral antibiotics or topical ointments.

However, although the symptoms go away after treatment, it often recurs. So, your doctor may give higher dosage of antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis if you are:

  • Pregnant and have symptoms
  • If BV is recurring
  • If you are planning to have a surgery to eliminate the risks of pelvic complications


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