Bacterial vaginosis is a type of bacterial infection and one of the most common conditions affecting women in the UK.
It is estimated that one in three women will suffer at some point in their lives.
Additionally, symptoms – which include a fishy smell, and thin, grey or watery discharge – can keep recurring.
There is evidence that more than half of women who have developed the unpleasant infection will get it again within three months of treatment with antibiotics.
While antibiotics can be very effective, there are several reasons why they aren’t always they answer when it comes to bacterial vaginosis.
“It is well documented that if antibiotics are used incorrectly or time and time again, the bacteria they are treating can adapt and find ways to survive the treatment,” explained Sonal Davda, a pharmacist for Chel Pharmacy in London.
“The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it. It’s important to only ever use antibiotics as they have been prescribed to you – saving them for later or sharing them with friends is likely to cause problems.
“People with recurring conditions such as bacterial vaginosis, which can come back time and time again, may find themselves taking course after course of antibiotics to clear it up which isn’t ideal.
“In addition to concerns about resistance, antibiotics wipe out some of the good protective bacteria in the vagina as well as the ones that cause bacterial vaginosis, so after a course of antibiotics your natural balance is disrupted, leaving you more vulnerable to conditions such as thrush.”
The condition occurs when there is a change to the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina.
It is unknown why some women suffer from the condition more than others.
Here are five ways to prevent the condition returning, according to Davda.
You don’t need to push water or soaps into your vagina to wash it – known as douching. This will disturb your natural balance and can cause bacterial vaginosis rather than treat it.
Avoid perfumed or antiseptic soaps and oils in the bath.
Avoid strong detergents or perfumes when washing your underwear.
Sex without a condom can raise your risk. Semen is alkaline and can affect the pH balance in your vagina, so you can try using a condom if you get bacterial vaginosis symptoms after sex.
Try a lactic acid gel
Using a lactic acid gel such as Balance Activ (balanceactiv.com) a couple of times a week or at times when you notice it comes back. It helps to boost the growth of good bacteria and prevent recurrence of bacterial vaginosis.