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It's The Most Common Type Of Vaginal Infection And Most Women Haven't Heard Of It

Do you know what bacterial vaginosis is? If you're a woman and you don't, you're not alone, despite it being more common than Thrush.

That's why women's health expert Dr Ginni Mansberg wants women to be more aware of the common type of vaginal infection, after a new survey from YouGov Galaxy found that two in three Australia women don't know what bacterial vaginosis is.

"Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of vaginal infection for women of childbearing age, affecting approximately one million Australian women at any one point in time," Dr Mansberg told 10 daily.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacterial flora in the vagina and is often confused with 'its better known sister', Thrush.

What is the difference between BV and Thrush?

According do Dr Mansberg, there are some easy ways to identify the difference between BV and Thrush.

"Thrush tends to create a thick, curdy discharge and can cause itching and burning, while BV doesn’t have either of these symptoms," she said.

"The biggest tell-tale sign however is that while Thrush is odourless, BV has a very distinct odour -- often described as 'fishy' -- making women feel very self-conscious."

Dr Ginni Mansberg wants women to prioritise their vaginal health. Image: Supplied

Dr Mansberg explained that due to there being a lot of education about Thrush over the last few decades, women are more aware of it, often assuming that's what they have instead of BV.

"But it’s important that women are able to readily tell the difference so they can make sure they’re treating themselves for the right condition or seek professional advice on what they might really have," she added.

Why don't most women know about BV?

Dr Mansberg pointed out as with many topics relating to women’s health, vaginal health still tends to be taboo and stigmatised, although this is starting to change.

"Most Australian women learn about periods and reproduction in school, they wouldn’t have much education around other conditions that effect their vagina such as BV, apart from going to their healthcare professional to be diagnosed," Dr Mansberg told 10 daily.

We are finding that many women are too embarrassed by the symptoms to even do that.

Dr Mansberg said this is a real problem, with there being a strong misconception among women that vaginal infections are a personal hygiene problem or due to being unclean and ironically, the exact opposite is true.

"The vagina is naturally self-cleaning and so-called cleaning methods such as douching and vaginal cleaning products can do more harm than good," she warned.

How is BV treated?

BV is treated through a range of both prescription and over-the-counter treatment options that are specifically formulated for it.

"Even though it might seem embarrassing, it’s important to speak to a pharmacist or GP about your symptoms to get the right treatment for you," Dr Mansberg said.

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What happens if BV if left untreated?

If BV is left untreated or treated with something that’s really intended for Thrush or something else entirely, it may keep coming back again and again, warned Dr Mansberg.

"Quite often when treatments aren’t working women can start to fear that something more serious like an STI is going on which can cause unnecessary stress," she said.

Aside from not knowing what BV is, the study found one in 10 women hadn't heard of Thrush, gonorrhea, chlamydia or herpes. Image: Getty

However if BV is not treated properly, it can lead to more serious problems, such as a higher risk of HIV infection, STIs, such as the herpes simplex virus, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and human papilloma virus (HPV).

"The recurring nature of BV means it can also have a substantial impact on women’s emotional, sexual and social lives, beyond just the physical symptoms," Dr Mansberg said.

It can also lead to possible complications during pregnancy including early or preterm, delivery and loss of pregnancy.

Why are women turning to unconventional treatments?

Dr Mansberg also warned against unconventional treatments for BV that have been made popular by celebrities and social media influencers, such as vaginal steaming and inserting Jade or yoni eggs.

"Research shows us that women resort to these alternative remedies because of embarrassment about the symptoms and frustration about repeatedly being on antibiotic treatment," she told 10 daily.

The measures women take have become more varied with the rise of celebrity and influencer endorsed remedies, like vaginal steaming or inserting objects like crystal eggs or garlic into the affected area.

Dr Mansberg explained these remedies are unproven and ineffective, adding that not only will they have little to no effect whatsoever but BV will remain untreated or keep coming back.

"The YouGov Galaxy study showed that more than one in three women felt uncomfortable consulting their GP and their pharmacist about their symptoms, when really, they should be your first port of call," Dr Mansberg said.

Featured image: Getty