The most common type of vaginal infection among women of reproductive age, bacterial vaginosis is marked by a disruption in the vagina's normal balance of bacteria. Under normal conditions, the vagina contains mostly beneficial bacteria. But in cases of bacterial vaginosis, there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Causes of Vaginosis
Although the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is unknown, the following are thought to disturb the vagina's bacterial balance and increase your risk of infection:
- having a new sex partner
- having multiple sex partners
Symptoms of Vaginosis
While some women with bacterial vaginosis may show no signs of infection, bacterial vaginosis symptoms often include a thin, milky vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor (often more noticeable after sexual intercourse). Some women also experience vaginal itching and/or burning.
Alternative Treatment of Vaginosis
To date, little is known about the use of alternative medicine in treatment of bacterial vaginosis. One of the few reports on using natural remedies in treatment of this condition, a 2009 research review suggests that probiotics may be of some benefit to patients with bacterial vaginosis. Looking at 24 studies involving a total of 4,422 women, investigators found that taking supplements of the probiotic lactobacillus, alongside the antibiotic metronidazole, appeared to increase metronidazole's effectiveness.
Naturally present in the vagina (as well as in the digestive tract), probiotics are beneficial bacteria that may help suppress the growth of harmful bacteria.
Learn more about using natural remedies in combination with antibiotic treatments.
Treatment for Vaginosis
Because bacterial vaginosis may lead to a number of complications (including increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and preterm labor and preterm birth), it's important to treat the infection as quickly as possible.
In treating bacterial vaginosis, healthcare providers typically prescribe an antibiotic (which helps restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina). When treating bacterial vaginosis, it's important to use all of the medicine prescribed (even after all your symptoms subside).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006. MMWR 2006: 55 (No. RR-11).
Oduyebo OO, Anorlu RI, Ogunsola FT. "The effects of antimicrobial therapy on bacterial vaginosis in non-pregnant women." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 8;(3):CD006055.