Itchy Itchy Little Panty, Smelling Kinda Little Fishy

By Arlyn May Bongay | Last Updated May 14, 2012

Many women get it but don’t know how. To ask anyone about perennial matters makes for one uneasy conversation, so she would rather not ask. What’s with the itch and smell, really? We will pull the panties off, take a closer look at the itch (and more) caused by Bacterial Vaginosis and learn how to scratch it off.

Arlyn May Bongay

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Female perennial care is a very sensitive topic. It isn’t like facial hygiene where one can easily walk up to a drugstore and ask for the best remedy for acne. Not every girl is comfortable talking about what happens “down under” let alone walk up to a store full of people and ask for the best way to get rid of vaginal itch and fishy scent. One public humiliation any girl would care to avoid is to arouse suspicions of STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). Otherwise, it is rather painful to think that people see our perennial hygiene to be insufficient.

A photo of a woman covering her nose after a bad fishy smell

Around the world, women experience it at any point of their lives. It happens to one-third or exactly 29.2 % of the female population in the United States. To non-Hispanics and Black women where it is a little more prevalent, it happens to 51.2% of their women, and 32.1% of Mexican women. Twenty three point three percent of teenagers 14 – 19 years old suffer from it and 28 – 31% of women aged 20 and above. But common as it is, it isn’t a real coffee table discussion you would want your friends or family to talk about. This article hopes to tackle all issues surrounding Bacterial Vaginosis and how it can be best prevented to save you the hassle of embarrassment. 1

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis is only one but the most common of the three kinds of Vaginitis. Vaginal Candidiasis and Trichomoniasis are the other two kinds of Viginitis to watch out for. Not to confuse it with Vaginismus, which is an entirely different condition where vaginal penetration could be impossible, vaginitis simply means inflammation of the vagina (-itis, a suffix that stands for inflammation). The common characteristics of all  the three may include discharge, uncomfortable itching and pain, or a combination of either. At times, there could be no symptoms at all – this is an asymptomatic vaginitis but vaginitis nonetheless, associated to an infected vuvla. While all three symptoms could happen together at once, all three kinds of vaginitis could sit in your underwear all at the same time. But how can you tell one from the other? 2, 3

Trichomoniasis. Or “Trich” is a type of Vaginitis you might really want to avoid. Caused by the parasite Trichomonia vaginalis, it is the kind of Vaginitis that falls under STDs. It can happen to both men and women but it occurs to women between the ages of 16 to 35, through a sexual partner carrying the parasite, especially found in those with HIV. This one usually goes away voluntarily sometimes without symptoms. If it doesn’t go away by itself, a medical regimen of antibiotics will be advised after diagnosis. After that, if it still doesn’t go away, it could cause a change on the cervical tissue, which may only be fixed via Pap Smear. Safe sex and/or a monogamous sexual relationship are the best ways to avoid it. 4

Vaginal candidiasis. It is more commonly known as Yeast Infection or Yeast Vaginitis. Like other microorganisms residing in the body, yeast or Candida albicans is a type of fungus found in the mouth, gut and vagina. At normal levels, it is harmless but once disrupted, overgrowth will occur bringing the known vaginitis discomforts. Among the many causes are intake of a broad spectrum antibiotics and hormonal fluctuations. It is the next common vaginal inflammation to Bacterial Vaginosis that 20 – 30% of the healthier female population have been found to carry it. Thankfully, there are some over-the-counter anti-fungal agents that can help cure it. However, one has to be sure that it is not caused by the parasite Trichomonia or the bacteria that causes Vaginosis and the only way to find out is to bring it to the microscope. To prevent this, you have to read on the adverse effects of antibiotics found on the label. It is also helpful to be careful with perennial products, which may upset the normal levels of yeast. 5, 6

Bacterial Vaginosis. Among the three kinds of vaginal inflammation, it is the most common but, quite ironically, the least understood and the most under-diagnosed. Annually, women who seek physician’s advice have 10 million complaints on vaginitis. On top of the list is BV (Bacterial Vaginosis). It may seem benign next to the sexually transmitted Trich or the excess of Candida but it isn’t as innocent as it sounds.

What causes BV?

  • Bacteria. Like the Lactobacillus bacteria, Gardnerella is part of the natural vaginal flora. In small amounts, they are harmless. But increase in its number as well as other anaerobic bacteria depletes the number of the more helpful Lactobacillus causing an invasive process. E.coli has also been a pointed culprit, owing to improper hygiene. As a natural resident of the rectum, poor hygiene may introduce e.coli  into the vagina, triggering BV. 7, 8
  • Sex. It is yet unclear whether sexual transmission is a contributing factor. But having sex with a new partner, having multiple sex partners, and unsafe sex are not ruled out just yet. First-time sex may cause an imbalance in the levels of natural bacteria, which may be confused with the sexually transmitted parasite Trichomonia.
  • Disrupted pH balance. Too much of something is bad enough, true to the case in hygiene. Like routine douching, female perennial care products, harsh beauty soaps, and other chemicals directly applied to the vagina cause an alteration in the normal pH balance. The natural pH is between 3.8 – 4.2. In Candida-related vaginitis, the potential hydrogen or pH becomes <4.5 while Trichonomia-related vaginitis it becomes >4.5 and in BV, it becomes ≥4.7. With these scales on the pH, the vaginal environment becomes conducive to parasites, yeast overgrowth and an increase in the number of bacteria. 9, 10
  • Other risk factors. Although there is no direct link between BV and the use of an Intrauterine Device (IUD), women using this type of birth control have nevertheless been found to be susceptible to BV. Warm weather and poor health have been seen to contribute in the possibility of BV in some women. However this occurs, there is no explanation yet but prevention might as well be observed to entirely discourage BV vulnerability.

The Complications: What else could happen from BV?

Apart from the fishy odor, the itch all over the organ (even in areas virtually unreachable), a whitish discharge, which is more obvious after sex, a burning sensation during urination – a BV that does not easily go away can lead into these possibilities:

  • Urinary Tract Infection has been found to have higher incidences in women with BV. 11
  • For pregnant women with BV or Trichonomiasis, risks for premature birth and low birth weight on babies are higher. 12
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) happens when the bacteria that causes BV reaches the womb and the fallopian tube. PID is one cause for infertility and for another, it increases the risk for an ectopic pregnancy. 13
  • A woman with BV is more prone to STDs like Herpes Simplex virus (HSV), Chlamydia and gonorrhea. In fact her body is readily receptive for HIV infection or vice versa if she is the HIV carrier.
  • Risk for surgically-related infections is higher, especially for operations like hysterectomy and abortion.

The Cures and Preventive Measures

Once a test is run to rule out other possibilities, a BV can be cured with topical vaginal creams. But for faster female reproductive health recovery, a systemic treatment is advised with an antibiotic regimen. Antibiotics could be taken orally or else vaginally introduced. Alternately and a bit more invasively, a vaginal douche or suppository can be used.

But always, an ounce of prevention is better than having to spend pounds on cure. You will find that my point is that following preventive measures will save you a lot of money from testings and treatments. So practice safe, if not cautious sex, and it would be even better to practice monogamous sex. Avoid scented and chemically-enhanced perennial soaps, washing fluids, sanitary pads and panty liners as they contain chemicals which may alter your natural pH levels. The same goes for douching, which you don’t have to entirely avoid since some women prefer this hygiene ritual. The less treated your douche the better it is in leaving you feeling clean and secure of your pH balance. Observe a clean and healthy perennial hygiene, taking care to always wear clean and dry underwear. Follow a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, which weaken the immune system. 14

If you ask me…

Growing up in show business as an adolescent is not easy and it is difficult not to be overly careful about vaginal hygiene. I will admit that owing to my excessively self-conscious perennial care, I’ve had my share of BV with a complication of UTI and nephritis. And believe me, it is one nightmare I don’t want to ever go through again. So ditch the itch even before it hits you!




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