So it feels like something isn’t quite right down there. Maybe there’s discharge, a new smell or everything is just not as comfortable. Like most of us, you’re first thought is probably thrush but you could have bacterial vaginosis – the most common cause of bacterial infection for women of reproductive age.

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry. According to a 2019 YouGov Galaxy Women’s Health Survey, almost two thirds of don't even know it exists. 

That’s why we spoke with Dr Ginni Mansberg, who is busting myths around this common condition.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacterial flora which usually found in the vagina. And despite what many people think, it’s not a sexually transmitted infection nor is it related to hygiene.

“There is also a strong misconception among the women that vaginal infections are a personal hygiene problem or due to being unclean, and that is simply not the case,” says Dr Ginni.

What are the symptoms?                    

Nearly 85% of women don’t show any symptoms, and often confuse bacterial vaginosis for it’s well-known ‘sister’ thrush. But Dr Ginni points out “there are some ways to tell the difference, mainly the distinct “fishy” odour which is unique to bacterial vaginosis, and can make women can feel self-conscious.”

Follow this easy table to check your symptoms:

Symptom Bacterial Vaginosis Thrush
Odour Distinctive 'fishy', unpleasant None, normal
Discharge Whitish-grey, thin, homogenous White, thick, curdy
Itching/burning Rarely Intense itching, burning

Vaginal pH > 4.5

Presence of "clue cells"

Vagina pH <4.

Here’s how you can treat it

Visit your GP. This is the golden rule when it comes to dealing with any unusual vaginal symptoms.

“The vagina is highly sensitive and something we need to take care not to mess around with,” said Dr Ginni. “Alternative methods recommended by celebrities and influencers are often not proven to have any affect and can potentially even be dangerous.”

Many women resort to alternative remedies they have seen online because of embarrassment about the symptoms and frustration about repeatedly being on antibiotic treatment. The vagina is naturally self-cleaning, and many of the methods such as douching and vaginal cleaning products can do more harm than good.

© Prevention Australia