Bacterial Vaginosis or BV is characterized by a unique and offensive vaginal odor commonly described as “fishy” or “sour”. The smell is often worse at the end of your menses and right after sex with a man, if no condom is used. The smell can be embarrassingly strong, and the condition can be annoyingly recurrent for some women.
BV is not an infection, rather it is an imbalance of normal vaginal flora –I love that we refer to the vaginal ecology as flora.
It is called a vaginal yeast or candida infection, but that is a misnomer. What is really happening is an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. Yeast commonly exists in small amounts in the vagina, it is kept in check by, among other things, the healthy lactobacilli which also live there. So when we have a yeast infection what we have is an overgrowth of this one element. Candida albicans is the most common strain of yeast, though others exist, this is important to remember if you are having a treatment failure: you could have a different strain.
Where does yeast grow?
Anywhere where it is warm and moist is a lovely home for yeast—skin folds anywhere, under breasts and under arms, anywhere around the genitals, inner thighs and buttock where air does not circulate. It can occur in the mouth and digestive tract, typically this is not seen unless you have a weakened immune system.
It is one of those things just not talked about—caring for your vagina. We get messages from the media and folks selling product, we need to sanitize ourselves. We should “freshen” with a douche or “organic wash” or “odor blocker”. The truth is, the more product you put in your vagina, the more likely you will get an imbalance in your natural flora. This is the healthy bacteria which we need for vaginal health. This imbalance can lead to vaginitis –an inflammation of the vagina. This can be mildly uncomfortable or can lead to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis—stay tuned for posts on these.
So you now know what not to do. So what DO you do?