New Study Shows that Bacterial Vaginosis is More Prevalent Than Previously Thought

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) appears to be more common than previous estimates indicated, including among women who are virgins, according to a study in the November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers found that BV was prevalent among 27% of nearly 2,000 young, healthy women entering recruit training for the Marines. BV was found in 28% of the 1,675 sexually experienced women and 18% of the 263 virgins. 

BV, the most common cause of vaginal discharge in the US, is an infection caused by an overgrowth of certain bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina. Although the main symptom is an increased thin, white vaginal discharge with a strong fishy odor, approximately 50% of women have no symptoms. BV is associated with spontaneous abortion, post-gynecologic surgery infection, and pelvic inflammatory disease that can lead to infertility. In pregnant women, BV is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes, chorioamnionitis, and endometritis. BV is treated with antibiotics, but it frequently comes back. 

According to the researchers, BV has been estimated to range from 7% among symptomatic women patients in general practice clinics to 46% among women patients in STDs clinics. But these estimates were based on studies that focused largely on STD clinic patients and pregnant women. From June 1999 through June 2000, the researchers studied a cross-section of diverse young women from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, 75% of whom were between the ages of 17 and 19. The overall prevalence of BV was higher than expected and it differed by race and ethnicity. Asian/Pacific Islander women had the lowest prevalence, at 11%, while Native American women (34%) and black women (32%) had the highest rates. Researchers also found that women who took the birth control pill had a lower rate of BV (24.9%) compared to women who did not (30.6%). 

If you have any concerns about Bacterial Vaginosis or other vaginal infections, please ask your South Bay OB/GYN Provider or schedule an appointment to be seen in our office.

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