Although the precise cause of bacterial vaginosis (BV) is unknown, an imbalance in the vagina’s normal bacterial flora is thought to be the cause. A healthy vagina contains a balance of “bad” and “good” bacteria, mostly lactobacilli and other microorganisms. When this equilibrium is upset, an excessive number of “bad” bacteria proliferate, which results in BV.
Several factors are believed to contribute to the development of BV:
- Bacterial Imbalance: The most commonly accepted theory is that BV is associated with a reduction in the population of lactobacilli, which are beneficial bacteria that help maintain the vaginal pH level and prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
- Sexual Activity: While BV is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), sexual activity can be a risk factor for its development. Having multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner may increase the risk.
- Douching: Douching involves using water or a mixture of fluids to clean the vagina. It can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vaginal flora and increase the risk of BV. Healthcare providers generally recommend avoiding douching.
- Menstrual Cycle: Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle may affect the vaginal environment and contribute to BV development in some individuals.
- Pregnancy: BV is more common during pregnancy, possibly due to hormonal changes and an altered vaginal environment.
- IUD Use: Some studies have suggested that the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) for contraception may be associated with an increased risk of BV, but the relationship is not entirely clear.
- Hygiene Practices: Using scented soaps, bubble baths, and other feminine hygiene products in the genital area can disrupt the vaginal flora and increase the risk of BV.
It’s important to note that not all individuals who engage in sexual activity or have these risk factors will develop BV, and some people may develop BV without any identifiable risk factors. BV is a common vaginal infection and can affect women who are not sexually active as well. If you suspect you have BV or are experiencing symptoms, consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Left untreated, BV can lead to complications, so seeking medical attention is essential.