let's talk about bacterial vaginosis

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

~ This is certainly a topic I never thought I'd be writing about, and I also discuss vaginal problems so if you're especially sensitive, pls do not read this ~

I suffered from chronic bacterial vaginosis (BV) for about four months - since December to the middle of March - and it was really not a fun time.

For those of you who don't know what BV is - it's not a very well known problem (?) and I certainly didn't know what it was until I had it - (it's mainly known as an STI even though it's not just sexually transmitted, you can get it from things such as stress, lack of sleep, bad health etc etc., but I don't really like referring to it as an STI - mostly because it's not actually one). BV is basically where the good bacteria in your vagina are overrun with bad bacteria, producing clear, watery discharge that has a funny smell. I would like to reiterate that it's not sexually transmitted, and it's really nothing to feel ashamed of.

To set the scene: it was a few days before Christmas and I had just had my period, so was sort of expecting a slight smell down there - not too bad, but everyone with a vagina will know what I mean by this. But to my delight (hopefully you can sense the sarcasm) the smell was ~literally~ horrendous. Immediately, I panicked that it was an STD - but then knew logically that it wasn't, unless it lay dormant for months - and then tried to ignore it until the doctors opened (remember, it was just before Christmas so I wouldn't get anything until the 27th, if I could get an appointment that fast. So, I done what everyone has done, and googled my symptoms, which strangely enough calmed me that it wasn't an STD, it was actually an infection known as BV. And it was actually pretty common among menstruating women, even though no one really talks about it.

I read up so much on BV that I'm now basically a walking encyclopedia on it and then I finally got a doctors appointment in early January, where she confirmed that it was BV, gave me antibiotics and I was on my way. Only, the antibiotics never fully cleared it (they cleared it for a few days) and I got my period again and it came back (albeit not smelling as bad). I spoke to my doctor, and she told me that this sometimes happens to people with BV - and said she didn't want to put me on antibiotics again - as the antibiotics kill all bacteria, leaving you more susceptible to things like thrush and UTIs -, and recommended some gels that rebalance pH to me.

I can't really remember specific time frames but I did use Canesten Vaginal Balance gel - which, again, worked like the antibiotics and only worked to an extent. After using them, I used Balance Activ BV gel - again, having the same effect. My period seems to be the trigger for BV, because the pH of blood is slightly higher than the pH of the vagina, so when you have a bloody tampon or pad on, the blood can sit in/around your vagina, meaning the pH is all out of wack. I was eating so. much. yoghurt, because there are lactobacilli in yoghurt, and I was seemingly deficient of lactobacilli - did not help at all, but I'm a fan of yoghurt so it's okay.

I was genuinely at the end of my tether with my recurrent BV, dramatically deciding that I'll just be resigned to live with BV forever (or at least until I stop menstruating), when I found this article. The woman suffers from recurrent BV, saying the only thing that has helped her has been probiotics.

Upon doing some further research into vaginal probiotics I found that they seem to work for cases of recurrent BV(!). As it is unknown exactly what causes BV or why some people are more prone to get it, there is a lot of available studies into clearing BV, and so many discuss the use of probiotics and their benefits. So, I decided to buy some Canesten vaginal probiotics and see if this would finally be the thing that helps my BV. And it has!! I was so happy when, after using one, I noticed no unpleasant smell, my discharge had returned back to normal and I seemed to be free of BV (finally). Once I finished the course of them, I bought some OptiBac probiotics. It says on the pack that you should take them everyday, but I only take them when I feel it's necessary - usually once a week and then everyday for the last few days of my period - and this has been my first period where I have taken them often, and this is also my first period where everything is okay down below.

* All jokes aside, BV is a horrible thing to live with - I went to three different gynaecologists, and was not recommended probiotics or anything to deal with the problem at its root. There haven't been a lot of medical studies designed talking about recurrent BV, and I honestly believe there should be. Vaginal problems in general affect almost all women, and it's just something that's not discussed. So, I think there should be more of a dialogue on vaginal problems and issues, meaning that women don't feel ashamed or embarrassed of something that's completely natural.

Hopefully this was of use to at least one person out there - I know if I had seen something like this, I would have felt less embarrassed about it.

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