Something wrong down there? What your vagina is trying to tell you

Let’s be straight. When you get the the feeling that there is something wrong down there, there usually is. If you get the feeling that your vagina is unhappy, there are a number of reasons why this might be, and one of them is Bacterial Vaginosis.

What your vagina it trying to tell you…

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a confusing topic of conversation and 1 in 3 women will get it in their lifetime. Often mistaken for thrush, yet more women in the UK actually suffer from Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) than thrush[1]. They also suffer more often, typically 3-4 times per year and up to 72% of women will get recurrence of BV within 7 months. Yet very few people have heard of BV and typically treat symptoms as thrush.

In a nutshell, BV is misunderstood and mistreated. Let’s try and clear up some of the confusion and take a look at what it really is, how you can keep your vagina healthy and why heading straight out for antibiotics isn’t always the best solution.

What is BV?

So, what is BV? Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by a change in vaginal pH. Bacteria called lactobacilli keep the vagina acidic to prevent other harmful bacteria from growing there. With BV, the temporary shortage of lactobacilli allows bad bacteria to thrive, disrupting pH levels and causing unusual vaginal discharge. BV is a naturally occurring and common condition, it isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can be triggered by sexual intercourse.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Thin, watery, greyish-white discharge that has a fishy odour which gets stronger after sex or abnormally large amount of discharge
  • Occasional discomfort
  • Possible redness and irritation of skin around the vulva

Bear in mind that the symptoms can be very similar to thrush so it’s important to make the correct diagnosis. Experienced Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shazia Malik on behalf of Balance Activ™, a leading women’s intimate healthcare brand, explains, “Unfortunately, the symptoms are very similar to thrush but the treatments should, yet often aren’t, very different. BV comes with the classic itchiness of a yeast infection, so it’s easy for customers to mistake it for thrush. There are some subtle, yet important differences. For example, the discharge associated with thrush tends to be white, thick and curd-like, whereas it is thin, watery and grey if you have BV. Another key difference is that the discharge from thrush is odourless, whereas with BV it has a strong, fishy odour, especially after sex.”

Remember the following about BV:

  • It isn’t caused by poor hygiene
  • It’s not an STI
  • It can still occur even in women who have never had sexual intercourse
  • Can only be treated with the right diagnosis

Something wrong down there? How to keep your vagina healthy and happy…

With so much confusion around what’s making your vagina unhappy, how do you keep it healthy and happy?

Here are five ways you can help:

  1. Avoid tight pants, thongs and underwear made from Lycra or nylon and instead opt for cotton pants that allow the area to breathe.
  2. Wash the intimate area with warm water or fragrance-free and pH neutral products. Remember the vagina is self-cleaning so douching isn’t good for it.
  3. During your period, change pads and tampons regularly to keep pH levels in check.
  4. If you’ve been to the gym, for a run or done any physical exercise, change out of your sports gear afterwards because sweat is the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria.
  5. Finally, remember to use protection during sex and with new sexual partner as semen affects the vaginas pH.

Why antibiotics aren’t always the answer if there is something wrong down there…

Dr. Shazia Malik warns that although antibiotics are a therapy option for BV, Public Health England relaunched a national campaign in 2018 to support the government’s efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance[2]. She says, “Evidence also suggests that there’s a strong link between antibiotic use and these later causing thrush, as antibiotics may destroy the good bacteria.[3] Some women suffer from chronic (recurring) bacterial vaginosis; medicine can clear up the infection, but it returns again after a few weeks.[4]

“Treating BV with antibiotic tablets, gels or creams can have side effects and disrupt
the natural bacteria in the vagina but now women,  particularly those with recurring conditions, are increasingly favouring alternative and natural remedies, which are easily available over the counter.“

The unnecessary use of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, a global concern predicted to cause 10 million deaths by 2050[5], so there has never been a better time to look for a natural alternative.

A natural alternative…

Balance Activ™ is a natural alternative to harsh antibiotics in the successful treatment of BV. Balance Activ™ gel and pessaries are safe and effective at restoring and maintaining the pH of the vagina and should start to work after just one dose.

Use Balance Activ™’s free symptom checker to understand more about your symptoms.

Balance Activ™ products are available nationwide from ASDA, Boots, Morrisons, Tesco, Superdrug and amazon.co.uk.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is wrong down there? Have you ever had VB? We hope this quick guide has helped you understand why that might be, what VB is and your options for treating it.


[1]Joesef MR, Schmid G. Bacterial Vaginosis. Clinical Evidence. 2005; 13: 1968-1978

[2] Public Health England. Keep antibiotics working. Accessed June 2019. https://antibioticguardian.com/ keep-antibiotics-working/

[3] Kim, J. and Park, Y. (2017). Probiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Vaginal Infections: Review Article. Journal of Menopausal Medicine, 23(3), p.139.

[4] https://familydoctor.org/condition/bacterial-vaginosis/

[5] O’Neill J. Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. London: Review on Antimicrobial Resistance; 2014. Available from: https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/AMR%20Review%20Paper%20-%20Tackling%20a%20crisis%20for%20the%20health%20and%20wealth%20of%20nations_1.pdf [Google Scholar]

[6] Source  Andersch et al, 1986. Treatment of bacterial vaginosis with an acid cream: a comparison between the effect of lactate-gel and metronidazole. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 21:19-25

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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