First of all, let’s make it clear that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection and if your partner has it, then it does not mean that she is cheating on you!
About Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that can develop in anyone having a vagina and there are many causes and risk factors for Bacterial vaginosis.(1) One of the causes, of course is, a new sexual partner, but it is not the only cause. Other potential causes for bacterial vaginosis include douching and smoking.
Is Bacterial Vaginosis a Sexually Transmitted Infection?
NO, bacterial vaginosis is not an STI; however, some people have been told by their practitioners that it is.(2) This confusion occurs from the fact that bacterial vaginosis is often mentioned along with sexual activity and people immediately jump to the conclusion that it is an STI.
Yes, sexual intercourse affects the balance of the natural bacterial in the vagina and causes excess bacterial growth and can lead to bacterial vaginosis. However, there is not much evidence that this infection can pass through sexual contact between two people;(2) that is why it is not considered an STI and is definitely NOT a sure sign of cheating.
With that being said, it is important to state here that bacterial vaginosis increases the risk of contracting any STI, as the bacterial changes leads to reduction in the natural defenses of the vagina.
What is the Exact Cause of Bacterial Vaginosis?(2,3)
The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is not clear; however, this condition is characterized by an imbalance of the vaginal bacteria. However, according to experts, there are a number of different reasons, which can increase your risk for having bacterial vaginosis and these are: Anything that affects the pH levels of the vagina, such as the use of irritating vaginal products or douching.
The chance of developing bacterial vaginosis increases if:
- There has been a recent change in your sexual partner.
- If you are sexually active.
- Placement of an intrauterine device (IUD).
- Black or dark skinned people are more at risk for developing bacterial vaginosis.
- Smoking also increases the risk for developing bacterial vaginosis.
How Long Does An Episode Of Bacterial Vaginosis Usually Last?
Bacterial vaginosis tends to resolve on its own after some days. However, you may need medical treatment, such as antibiotics for a week and if bacterial vaginosis persists, then a second round of medications may be prescribed by your doctor.
Why Does Anyone Suffer From Bacterial Vaginosis If They Haven’t Had It Before?(4)
There is no clear answer to why anyone would develop Bacterial vaginosis without having had experienced it before. Research is still going on regarding bacterial vaginosis, its causes and more. Some of the common and seemingly innocent factors, which can cause bacterial vaginosis to develop, are any change in your method of vaginal cleansing; using an IUD; and being a smoker. Due to all these reasons, the patient may not know when and why they have suddenly developed bacterial vaginosis.
How to Relieve Your Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
About 50% of patients suffering from bacterial vaginosis do not experience any symptoms, so there is often no need to do anything. However, if the patient is having strong-smelling discharge from the vagina along with irritation during urination, which are the common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, then you need to consult your doctor for treatment.
Some of the things that you can do at home to relieve your bacterial vaginosis symptoms are:
- Avoid bath and opt for showers instead.
- Do not used perfumed products and always use plain soap and water when washing your genital region.
- Always wear underwear that is made of lightweight and breathable fabrics, such as cotton. For some patients, wearing no underwear also helps.
- Do not ever use vaginal douches, washes or deodorants.
If You Have Bacterial Vaginosis; Does It Mean Your Partner Needs Treatment Too?
Treatment is not likely to be needed if your partner is a man.(1) Bacterial vaginosis can spread between two partners and even if both the partners are women; and YES, if you are suffering from Bacterial vaginosis then your partner also needs treatment.(1)
What Can Be Done To Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis Again?
As the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis and its spread is not clear; it is also difficult to exactly state how to prevent a recurring Bacterial vaginosis.
However, there is no need to get disheartened, a few simple steps can help in cutting down the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis the second time round. These measures for prevention are similar as for relieving the Bacterial vaginosis symptoms.
- First and foremost, never put anything in your vagina or around your genitalia that can cause irritation. This includes deodorants, douches and scented vaginal cleansing products.
- It is always best to use a plain water and basic soap to clean your genital region. Also avoid taking baths and shower more.
- Always wear comfortable cotton underwear, which is moisture-wicking and breathable to prevent surplus growth of bacteria.
- Always wash your underwear with a very mild detergent without added scent and strong formula.
- When engaging in sexual activity, if you are using any sex toys, make sure that they are cleaned before use.
The sad news is recurrence of bacterial vaginosis is quite common, however, the risk of recurrence can be cut down with the above measures.
What If You Think You Have Had STI Exposure Or If Your Partner Has Cheated On You?(5)
If you think you may have contracted an STI, then it is better to get tested and put your mind to rest. Some of the symptoms that indicate you may have had STI are:
- Painful urination.
- Unusual and smelly discharge from your vagina or penis.
- Development of sores, spots, lumps around your anus or genital area.
- Burning or itching sensation around the genitals.
- Pain in the lower abdomen and/or testicles.
- Bleeding or pain after or during sex.
This situation becomes a little complicated if you suspect that you partner has been unfaithful to you. You may want to confront them head-on; however, you need to calmly think things through, as there is a chance that you are wrong and it is all one big misunderstanding.
Before talking to your partner about your suspicions, it is better to write down what you want to say to them beforehand, as doing so will prevent you from saying something that you might regret later.
If it turns out that your partner has been cheating on you, then you have to make a decision whether you want to end the relationship or forgive your partner and move forward.
Speaking with a third person who is unbiased can help in straightening things out between you and your partner. You have to carefully choose the environment in which you want to talk to your partner and start the conversation by telling your partner how much you value your relationship and how much you also value trust and honesty in a relationship. It is better to not use an accusatory tone and calmly listen to what your partner has to say. However, if you feel you are right and there is a problem, which is being avoided, then do not hesitate to pursue what you think is right.
What Needs To Be Done If Your Partner Thinks You Have Cheated On Them And Have Exposed Them To An STI? (5)
If the case is reversed and you are suspected to be unfaithful, try to stay calm. More often when we are confronted with something that is untrue, we tend to get defensive; however, try to think from their perspective and you will realize that your partner is behaving like this because they value your relationship. Listen calmly and then explain your side of the things. You can also let them know that it has made you very upset to think that your partner doesn’t trust you and suspects you of infidelity. It is important that both of you are honest and open towards each other.
If there is an issue about contracting an STI, you need to explain to them that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection and if they want to get tested, extend your support to them.
When Should You Consult Your Doctor?
Even though bacterial vaginosis can go away on its own; you can book an appointment with your doctor to talk about things; and for medications if you need any.
Bacterial vaginosis, if not treated, can increase the risk of other STIs and cause pregnancy complications and pelvic inflammatory disease.(4) So, if you are having any unusual discharge, burning, itching, soreness or swelling around the genital region, then you need to consult your doctor immediately.
Your doctor will test the fluid and discharge from the vagina for infection and prescribe medications accordingly and as needed.
What is the Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis?(3)
Treatment for bacterial vaginosis comprises of a course of antibiotics, either in a capsule, pill, or cream form. Patient may need a second round of antibiotics depending on the infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is undergoing more studies to understand this disease; but one thing is clear that bacterial vaginosis is not a definite sign of cheating. So, if your partner or you experience it, then it is better to give the other the benefit of the doubt and not blame anyone as the cause of the bacterial vaginosis may be something entirely different and nothing to do with your sex life.