If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis, don’t panic, but do seek treatment. Many women who have had BV during their pregnancy never experience any detrimental effects. However, there has been research reported that it can cause certain unwanted problems such as an increased risk for miscarriages, PPROM (preterm premature rupture of amniotic membranes), and even complications after delivery such as a uterine infection.
As to why some women infected with BV experience these problems during pregnancy and others do not is very poorly understood. There are differing opinions, but some studies suggest that bacterial vaginosis may just act as a sign to other infections and/or problems that often cause premature birth. Statistically, it is certain that those women who are diagnosed early on during pregnancy are at a much higher risk of developing problems than those that are develop the infection farther along in the pregnancy. Therefore, if you already know that you have BV and are pregnant, it is important that you take the necessary steps (see your OB/GYN first) to prevent other infections by treating the condition.
Although it hasn’t been “statistically” proven that actually treating the condition will reduce the risk of preterm delivery and other problems, experts still suggest that treatment be done because of the fact that women with bacterial vaginosis are at a greater risk for a preterm delivery.
Many doctors highly recommend that women who are pregnant and have had previous preterm deliveries be tested for BV, and consequently, receive the proper treatment. Other “experts” disagree based on some research that treating pregnant women makes no difference. Therefore, if you are wondering why you weren’t screened during your initial prenatal appointment, it was probably because there is conflicting evidence regarding the effectiveness at reducing the risk of preterm delivery through treatment. In fact, most often you will not be screened, unless you are at a high risk for early delivery.
There is still a considerable amount of study and testing to be done to determine if treatment during pregnancy will lower harmful risks. Some doctors feel that in the studies previously done, treatment came too late (after the first trimester) when the bad bacteria had already advanced to the amniotic membranes. However, many doctors are still skeptical about treating BV during the first trimester because it is not wise for the mother to be taking any medication that could be harmful to the baby during that critical time. Normally, pregnant women aren’t treated during this time, even though recent evidence seems to indicate that using Metronidazole should be safe. It will be interesting to see if it can be proven that bacterial vaginosis treatment during pregnancy really does reduce the risk of a preterm birth, and if so, if treatment will be extended regularly to the first trimester as well.
How many women are infected with BV during pregnancy? The statistics are rough, but the percentage is around 20%.
How will you be treated for BV while you’re pregnant? Your doctor will most likely prescribe to you antibiotics. BV is caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately, antibiotics have no way of distinguishing between them and will kill them both off. Therefore, if the good bacteria is outgrown again by the bad bacteria, you’re symptoms and the condition will return. This is a common problem with using antibiotics to treat BV, but they will clear up your symptoms for a short time. Hopefully, you will not have recurrent BV, but statistically at least 1/3 of all women treated with antibiotics suffer from vaginosis again within 3 months. Other sources report as high as 3/4 of women have recurrent BV after being treated.