I can’t tell you how often I’m reminded, particularly since becoming a Mum, to ‘look after myself’. I’m never quite sure what exactly this means but I’m sure it somewhat involves getting sleep, healthy food and gym time as well as the standard massages and manicures.
However, I’m pretty convinced it doesn’t refer to intimate health – what’s in my pants – but why shouldn’t it? It seems we can whinge and whine about hayfever or hangovers as much as we like, but we haven’t yet got past the embarrassment of discussing intimate health.
Which is why I’m partnering with Balance Activ (full disclosure: I’ve used their products before) to understand a little more one of the most common vaginal conditions out there: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). Affecting approx. 8.9 million women in the UK alone, it’s time to get informed, gain more understanding and actually ‘look after ourselves’!
It’s estimated 1 in 3 women of childbearing age will experience Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) at some point so it’s very common. It’s also not unheard of for it to be diagnosed as thrush – this has happened to me – as Helen Knox, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Contraception and Sexual Health, explains:
“Most women know about thrush, but very few have heard of BV. While there are some differences in symptoms, such as a fishy smell that is caused by BV but not by thrush, many women will automatically reach for a thrush treatment when they have any vaginal irritation. This misdiagnosis results in ineffective treatment and prolonged symptoms.”
“Many women look online to self-diagnose vaginal conditions – to ease their worries and get a better understanding of their symptoms before seeing a doctor. But it’s easy to come across inaccurate advice and misdiagnose symptoms for something else.”
“If you understand the correct symptoms to watch out for, then it’s much easier to determine whether you are suffering from BV and find the right treatment options.”
A healthy hoohah (as we call the vagina in our house – the laugh rids anyone of embarrassment) is all about balance: it’s home to millions of micro-organisms, and is normally good at keeping them stable. Lactobacillus is a ‘good’ bacteria that helps to stop other more harmful micro-organisms from growing, and maintains the pH (acid-alkaline) balance of your vagina. Ultimately, the vagina is self-cleaning (how clever!), but it is also a delicate environment which can so easily be disrupted by factors that upset its natural balance.
When this balance gets disrupted, you’ll start to notice things aren’t quite right and you could be developing BV.
BV doesn’t mean you’re not clean – in fact soap, shower washes and even douches can upset your natural balance, and make BV more likely.
You can develop it at any time, but it’s more likely to occur if your vagina, (which is an acidic environment) is disrupted by something that changes this natural pH balance – for example, semen – which is alkaline; or by using perfumed products or soaps; or even menstrual bleeding. Because the pH of this intimate area can so easily change due to many factors, it’s no surprise that BV is so common.
Natasha regularly experienced the symptoms of BV from 18 years of age. The main symptom she experiences is an unpleasant fishy smell, and she shares her personal story in this short video:
BV doesn’t need to be a problem.
There are a variety of effective treatment options available, including antibiotics and over the counter vaginal gels and pessaries available from your pharmacy. Balance Activ has been helping women successfully treat BV for over 10 years. It is a gentle formula that has been clinically proven, containing a unique combination of lactic acid and glycogen. The lactic acid helps to fight BV and the glycogen provides nutrients to help the good bacteria regrow and maintain your natural balance. You can use the products to maintain a healthy vagina when you’re run down, or if when taking antibiotics you think you are likely to get BV.
How can I be sure it is BV not Thrush?
To help women find clear and accurate information on vaginal health, Balance Activ has created the Intimate Health Taskforce (IHT) – a team of real women with experience of BV, along with Health Care Professionals united in their passion to raise awareness of BV, its symptoms and how to treat it. They have worked with the IHT to create articles and videos to inform and reassure women with vaginal health concerns along with an online symptom checker to help quickly and easily understand their symptoms – all available at www.balanceactiv.com.
Helen concludes; “if you are showing symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis, trying an over the counter lactic acid remedy like Balance Activ will do no harm. But if symptoms persist, see your GP as there may be another kind of bacteria involved that requires a different treatment”.
If you think you have BV and you are pregnant you should speak to your to your doctor or midwife as it may cause complications.
Thank-you to Balance Activ for working with More Than Toast .