The Emotional Impact of Bacterial Vaginosis

Published: 09th February 2010
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Bacterial vaginosis infection is one of the commonest vaginal infections experienced by women of child-bearing age. In fact, of all vaginal infections women are most likely to suffer from BV at some point in their lives. As many as one in every three women will have a BV infection in their lifetime and yet it tends to be thrush that is the most commonly discussed and understood vaginal infection, whilst bacterial vaginosis is left ignored.

One of the reasons for this is perhaps that many women do not know that they have a BV infection. As many as half of all sufferers will have no symptoms whatsoever, and those that do may well not be aware of how to identify bacterial vaginosis symptoms. The symptoms can be hard to detect - the main symptom of BV simply being a thin, grayish - whitish discharge, which generally has an unpleasant odour, which can worsen during or after sex. Some women also experience burning and itching sensations around the vagina, but these are less common symptoms of the disorder.

So, whilst vaginosis symptoms may be difficult to spot, or non-existent in the first place if you do experience the most common symptoms it can be very psychologically damaging to your self esteem. Added to this, for many women it is not unusual to experience recurrent bacterial vaginosis infections, which can have a massive emotional impact.

One of the reasons that having BV can have such a damaging effect is that there is a misconception that bacterial vaginosis is a sexual transmitted disease. This is completely untrue, whilst one of the factors that can lead to the infection occurring is sexual activity, with your risk increasing if you have had more than one sexual partner, the infection cannot be transmitted from person to person. In reality, the reason that sexual activity can trigger this vaginal infection is simply because sexual intercourse can introduce foreign bacteria into the vagina. However, the confusion surrounding this infection can lead sufferers to feel ashamed and embarrassed. Having any sort of vaginal infection can feel embarrassing and having to visit the doctor for a vaginal exam is unpleasant at the best of times but the misconception surrounding the causes of BV can make this even more difficult.

The moment the word "bacteria" is mentioned there is a pre-conceived idea that it must involve being "dirty" in some way. But a healthy vagina will have a balance of both good and bad bacteria, but when a BV infection occurs this healthy balance is disrupted, leading to an over-growth of the bad bacteria. The causes of bacterial vaginosis are all connected to the introduction of foreign bacteria to the vagina, but there are many ways that this can happen and it is in no way a reflection on the lifestyle or personal hygiene of the sufferer. However, because this vaginal infection is less widely known than some others, like thrush, many sufferers still find it deeply embarrassing.

To compound the lack of understanding of the true causes of BV the symptoms themselves can be extremely embarrassing. The most common symptom being heavier than normal discharge, with a white or gray appearance and an unpleasant odour. This can make women feel very self-conscious and worried that other people will be able to detect the odour - although this is, of course, extremely unlikely. The sufferer is left feeling unclean and dirty in some way, despite being in no way responsible for their condition.

What makes this even worse it the fact that the smell can become stronger during, or just after sexual intercourse. So, when the BV sufferer is already feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable about their symptoms they worsen during intimate moments. This can lead to the sufferer becoming withdrawn from their partner and thus what begins as a simple vaginal infection can impact on many aspects of a woman's life and self esteem.

Recurrent bacterial vaginosis can have an even more serious psychological impact. During bouts of infection the sufferer may well feel the same feelings of embarrassment and reluctance to be intimate but equally, even when the infection has been successfully treated the fear of causing another BV infection remains and so too can the reluctance to be intimate with a partner, risking another infection. The potential damage this can cause to relationships and a woman's self esteem should not be underestimated. Over an extended period of time a great strain will be placed on both the BV sufferer and her partner.

In order to reduce the potential emotional damage of recurrent bacterial vaginosis infections it is important to get to the root cause of the infection - more than simply treating the symptoms as and when they occur it is necessary to find a remedy that will stop the infection reoccurring in the future.

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