Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common yet often misunderstood condition affecting millions of women worldwide (29% of all women). Many don’t realize that aside from the discomfort it causes, BV can significantly impact fertility. This article explores bacterial vaginosis, its link to fertility, and what women can do to protect their reproductive health.
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal condition that occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted, leading to an overgrowth of certain pathogenic bacteria. Common symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge, a fishy odor, itching, and burning during urination. However, many women with BV may have no symptoms at all. Shockingly, Bacterial Vaginosis is associated with a two-fold increase in risk of chemical pregnancy, following IVF..
Bacterial Vaginosis and Fertility
Research indicates a significant connection between bacterial vaginosis and fertility. BV can impact fertility in several ways:
Increasing inflammation leading to Pelvic Inflammatory disease
association between BV microbiota and subsequent inflammation, which may lead to reduced fertility.
BV-related bacteria have been shown to induce immune activation through dendritic cell maturation and to increase levels of proinflammatory cytokines, resulting in mucosal inflammation of the genital tract
- Increased Risk of STIs: Women with BV are more susceptible to STIs like HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, which can also affect fertility.
- Preterm Birth: Pregnant women with BV are more likely to deliver prematurely, which can lead to complications for both mother and baby.
Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis
The good news is bacterial vaginosis is treatable. Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to manage the condition. It’s essential to complete the entire course of treatment even if symptoms improve beforehand. Additionally, regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider are crucial to ensure the infection is entirely cleared to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Prevention of Bacterial Vaginosis
Prevention is always better than cure. Here are a few steps to help prevent bacterial vaginosis:
- Maintain Good Hygiene: Regularly cleaning the genital area with mild, unscented soap can help prevent infection.
- Safe Sex Practices: Using condoms during sex can reduce the risk of BV.
- Avoid Douching: Douching can disrupt the vagina’s natural balance of bacteria, leading to BV.
Understanding the link between bacterial vaginosis and fertility is essential for women looking to conceive or maintain their reproductive health. If you suspect you have BV or are experiencing recurrent BV, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. Early detection and treatment can help prevent complications that may affect fertility.