A Closer Look at 5 Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

There are a number of symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, some are more noticeable than others. In some cases, you can have BV without even noticing any symptoms! Being able to catch it early, before the bad bacteria has a chance to grow and multiple, makes it easier to get rid of – so keep an eye out for the following symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, and act accordingly if you notice them.

1. “Fishy” vaginal odor

One sure sign you might be dealing with bacterial vaginosis is a foul-smelling odor down there. It is often described as smelling “fishy” and typically gets stronger after having sex. Other possible causes for vaginal odor are Trichomoniasis (a type of sexually transmitted infection), poor hygiene, and in rare cases, vaginal cancer and cervical cancer.

Vaginas naturally have an odor to them, here’s more information about why vaginas smell sometimes and what the different smells mean. A certain baseline of odor is totally normal, but a strong fishy scent, or other strong scents, can be a warning sign that something concerning is going on – so don’t ignore your scents!

2. Unusual discharge 

Unusual discharge is a common symptom associated with vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis. Unlike yeast infections, which typically include thick, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge, an infection caused by BV usually includes watery vaginal discharge that can appear white, gray, or green in color (here’s what the different colors of vaginal discharge can mean.)

Other potential causes for unusual vaginal discharge are Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a sexually transmitted infection (like trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia). Human papillomavirus (HPV), and cervical cancer.

Be mindful of your discharge, it can tell you a lot about your health. It’s not always going to be exactly the same, especially throughout the month, but it’s important to notice when something unusual is happening.

3. Burning sensation

If you have a vaginal infection like BV, it’s not uncommon to experience a burning sensation near your vagina, especially while peeing or having sex. This sensation is likely caused by inflammation, which is a natural response as your body tries to fight the infection. 

There are many reasons why you might experience a burning sensation near the vagina including dehydration, menopause, vulvodynia, urinary tract infection, yeast infection, and some types of sexually transmitted infections. A burnin sensation that creeps up is never a sign of something good, so this isn’t a symptom of BV that you should ignore. If it’s not BV, it could be something else that ranges from “I should change up my routine a bit to address this” or “this is a serious medical emergency”, and in other of those cases, you definitely don’t want to ignore it or put it off.

4. Pain

Vaginal pain can occur with BV, but it’s not a very common symptom. When it does occur, it typically coincides with a large amount of vaginal discharge, itching, and burning. It can be described in a couple of ways: stinging pain in the vulva or vaginal opening or sharp, aching, throbbing pain in the vagina or vulva. Sex may increase vaginal pain, so it’s recommended that you take a break until the infection has cleared up. 

Other causes of vaginal pain include yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, cervical cancer, vulvovaginal atrophy, vulvar vestibulitis, and psychological conditions like trauma.  

5. Itching 

Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable symptom often associated with infections like bacterial vaginosis. It can be described as being a tingly annoyance to downright painful in severe cases. For some women, vaginal itchiness is more prevalent at night making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There isn’t a known reason for this, but it’s likely related to the lack of distractions that typically occur during the day. 

Other causes of vaginal itching are irritation, menopause, yeast infections, certain skin disorders, and sexually transmitted infections. In rare cases, it can be caused by stress or vulvar cancer.

Final Thoughts on BV Symptoms

BV can have a number of different symptoms. You may experience none of them, some of them, or most of them. While BV can occasionally go away on its own in some cases, if the good bacteria is able to win against the bad bacteria to regain balance, it’s not a bad idea to seek additional help – especially if it’s not a very mild case.

On top of that, some of these symptoms can potentially hint towards something more serious and concerning going on, so that’s another good reason that you shouldn’t just ignore it and help that it takes care of itself. Sometimes, BV can clean up on its own, but if it’s not clearing up, or if it’s getting worse, you’ll have to take action like scheduling an appointment with a gyno. Most if the time it’s a fairly mild condition, and it’s quite common, but sometimes it’s more serious and requires additional care.

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