Bacterial Vaginosis during Pregnancy: All You Need to Know

Bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection of the vagina. There is good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vagina and usually, the good bacteria keeps things in balance. When bad bacteria dominate, bacterial vaginosis becomes a problem for women, especially during pregnancy. Bacterial vaginosis leads to infections, which if unchecked, can cause serious problems later on.

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis is common among women and shouldn’t be confused with sexually transmitted diseases. Bacterial vaginosis is usually associated with having sexual intercourse with multiple partners or an imbalance of bacterial flora in the vaginal area. Limiting the number of sexual partners one has or avoiding douching can reduce chances of bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy.

How Common Is Bacterial Vaginosis During Pregnancy?

Bacterial vaginosis is fairly common during pregnancy, affecting around 30% of the population.

According to scientific studies, bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature rupturing of membranes in the body.

Bacterial vaginosis can occur in women who are having sexual intercourse for the very first time as well before pregnancy or conception.

One in five women develop bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy.

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis

The primary causes of bacterial vaginosis are:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Using various contraceptive methods
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Using vaginal medications
  • Overdose or intake of antibiotics
  • Using too many vaginal injections, hormonal pills, and systemic hormones
  • Overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina during pregnancy
  • Indiscriminate use of vaginal washes

What Does the Latest Research Say?

A recent study conducted to find the link between Vitamin D and bacterial vaginosis found that a deficiency of Vitamin D in pregnant women increased their chances of contracting a BV infectio n. This vitamin induces anti-bacterial proteins in the body and enhances killing of bad bacteria in various tissues of the body. However, more reasearch is required to establish this.

Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

Most cases of bacterial vaginosis in some women show no signs or symptoms. Common symptoms for those with bacterial vaginosis (BV) include:

  • A burning sensation during urination
  • A thin, white or gray discharge during or after intercourse followed by a foul, fishy smell
  • Irritation in the genital area

Bacterial vaginosis diagnosis begins with an inquiry about the patient’s medical history. Your doctor may ask whether you’ve had any previous infections or had any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

A pelvic exam is often performed where the doctor inserts two fingers into your vagina and checks for signs of infection, followed by pressing the abdominal region to check for signs of the disease.

You can take a sample of your vaginal secretions and let the doctor examine it through a microscope. Your doctor will check for overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in your vaginal flora and examine for ‘clue cells’ which are basically vaginal cells clouded by harmful bacteria.

Placing a pH strip in your vagina to examine acidity levels is another common way to diagnose bacterial vaginosis. A pH level of 4.5 and higher in the vagina is considered to be a case of bacterial vaginosis.

Will You Be Screened for BV Even If You Don’t Have Symptoms?

You will be screened for bacterial vaginosis (BV) even if you don’t exhibit any of the BV symptoms. However, screening for BV depends on your healthcare provider and several factors. If you’re at high risk for premature delivery, you may or may not be screened for BV.

Women who have experienced preterm labor previously will be screened for bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, irrespective of the lack of symptoms.

How Does Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Affect Pregnancy?

Here are some ways your pregnancy may be affected due to bacterial vaginosis (BV):

  • Preterm labour is the main issue faced due to BV. Thetiming  of your delivery may be affected as well, resulting in a premature delivery ot a babybaby with low body weight.
  • Uterine infections after delivery and rupture of membranes are common issues faced during pregnancy for those with BV.
  • Second trimester miscarriage is highly likely in the case of pregnant women with BV.

Bacterial vaginosis usually resolves on its own after pregnancy. Women with BV may have perfectly normal pregnancies as well – the link, however, is not clear. But it is important to note that having BV can make you susceptible to certain diseases after pregnancy, like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and HIV. Women who aren’t pregnant but have BVmay be susceptible to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and infections after gynaecological surgeries.

Effective Treatment

You may be prescribed one of the following medications if you contract bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy:

1. Metronidazole

This medicine is available as a topical gel which can be inserted into the vagina. You must avoid alcohol for one day after this treatment. Either way, it’s advisable to avoid consuming alcohol during pregnancy. This medication can be taken orally as well.

2. Clindamycin

Your doctor may apply the clindamycin cream into the insides of your vagina. The cream has a tendency to weaken latex condoms.

3. Tinidazole

This medicine is taken orally. Avoid alcohol consumption when on this medication as it can cause a stomach upset and nausea (you will be prohibited from drinking alcohol during pregnancy).

Natural Ways to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis

There are several home remedies for treating bacterial vaginosis too. If you’re wondering how to get rid of BV while pregnant, you can try the natural remedies listed below.

1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt helps to build up the good or healthy bacteria in the vaginal area as it has been fermented  by friendly bacteria like lactic acid. This can ward off bacteria, and over time, cure your BV condition. One serving a day is the recommended amount of consumption. However,  processed yoghurt may not always contain live probiotics. Preparing yoghurt at home is the best way to get the benefit of active and live cultures.

2. Probiotic Supplements

Consult your doctor regarding the use of probiotic supplements during pregnancy. Your doctor may prescribe these herself if you have BV. These come in liquid as well as capsule/tablet form.

3. Garlic Supplements

Taking garlic supplements can aid in fighting BV during pregnancy. Consult your doctor regarding the use of garlic supplements during pregnancy, or alternatively, whether you can add garlic to your diet.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning the vagina daily can cure bacterial vaginosis.  Consult a doctor since it can come with a few side-effects.

5. Take ACV Baths

An apple cider vinegar bath  can cure bacterial vaginosis and reduce the chances of future infections. It restores the acidic quality of your vaginal flora.

6. Use Baking Soda

Mixing baking soda with bath water and soaking your vagina in it can prevent infections and clean your vagina. After a bath, you can remove moisture carefully from your groin area with a soft cloth

7. Tea Tree Oil

Mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil, olive oil, or sweet almond oil and applying topically is an effective remedy for bacterial vaginosis. Tea tree oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities which help combat infections.

Prevention

Inculcating hygienic habits is the most foolproof way to prevent an infection. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Safe Sex

Using condoms during intercourse times can reduce your chances of bacterial vaginosis. If you have multiple sexual partners, use condoms to decrease the risk of contracting BV. If you are trying to get pregnant, make sure that both of you have healed from any previous genital infection.

2. Wear Breathable Cotton Underwear

Underwear made from materials such as spandex trap moisture and create breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. Wearing breathable cotton underwear is important as it can prevent harmful bacteria deposits and vaginal infections.

3. Good Hygiene

Always wipe from the front to the back after using the bathroom. Change your pad or tampon several times throughout the day to maintain hygiene. If you use organic tampons, make sure you change them at least thrice daily.

4. Healthy Diet

A healthy and nutritious diet can boost your immunity and prevent BV from recurring even after delivery. When you’re pregnant, make sure your diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, essential acids and micronutrients.

5. Avoid Douching

Douching means washing the vagina with water or other liquids to eliminate odour. If you’ve been doing this, you should stop it right away as you may be washing off the healthy bacteria from your vagina. The vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism and doesn’t need any external cleaning.

6. Do Not Use Soap Down There

Scented soaps, bath oils and bubble bath liquids can deplete your vagina of its natural flora and make it susceptible to an infection like BV. Instead, just use plain water and your hands to gently wash your private parts.

7. Keep Your Workouts Light

Consider changing to a light workout that doesn’t make you sweat a lot. This, coupled with loose workout clothing, can keep vaginal infections at bay. Make sure you shower after you come home from a morning run or from the gym.

Although bacterial vaginosis can be a persistent and irritating condition, it does not pose any risk to your pregnancy. Stick to a healthy lifestyle to keep infections at bay.