Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a treatable bacterial infection of the vagina that occurs frequently in women. It is caused by a change in the balance of the natural bacteria that resides in the vagina. A study published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology in 2020 suggests that BV may be associated with intercourse with a male partner.
The Interaction Between the Vaginal and Penile Microbiome
In the study involving 168 heterosexual couples, the women did not have bacterial vaginosis in the beginning and were tested for the condition with vaginal swabs after one month, six months, and one year. The penile microbiome of their male partners was also tested. During this year, 31% of the participating women developed BV with the incidence being higher in women whose male partners were uncircumcised. This can be explained by the presence of moisture and warmth under the foreskin that provides optimum conditions for the bacteria to grow.
The Role of Penile Microbiome in Developing Bacterial Vaginosis
The researchers found a correlation between the presence of certain bacteria in the samples of the penile microbiome and the chances of developing bacterial vaginosis in the female partners.
Exchange of Bacteria During Intercourse
Both men and women have different bacteria in their microbiomes; these bacteria are exchanged during intercourse and affect both partners’ reproductive health. Two different explanations are given for the increased incidence of BV in sexually active women: firstly, bacteria that increase the risk of developing BV may directly be transmitted from the penis to the vagina during intercourse, and secondly, the penile microbiome may cause an imbalance in the vagina causing gradual development of bacterial vaginosis in a woman. Although more research is needed to understand the exact mechanism, it is obvious that BV is associated with intercourse.
Risk Factors and Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
The findings of this study have completely shifted our perspective on the causes of BV and its treatment. It was previously believed that the alkaline nature of semen was responsible for the changes in vaginal flora that caused BV. However, this study suggests that the penile bacteria themselves may have a role in the development of BV in sexually active women.
Bacterial Vaginosis Can and Should be Treated
This new development in the understanding of BV is crucial because untreated BV is responsible for increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and herpes in women and complications during pregnancy such as premature birth and low birth weight. There are plenty of excellent BV solutions. Try using Boric Acid suppositories for BV and to maintain BV try using a quality vaginal probiotics.
Bacterial Vaginosis Recurs Often
Unfortunately, according to the Journal of Infectious Diseases, BV recurs in as many as 58% of women within one year of treatment with oral antibiotics. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the symptoms of BV include gray/white vaginal discharge, itching, and a strong “fishy” vaginal odor.