Sex Talk

My vagina smells 'fishy' & itches. What could the problem be?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

21 January 2018 - 00:00
Itching is one of the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis.
Itching is one of the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis.
Image: 123RF/vladimirfloyd

Q. I have bacterial vaginosis. What is it and what can I do about it?

A. The vaginal canal has naturally occurring bacteria called lactobacilli. This "good" bacteria outnumbers the "bad" bacteria called anaerobes. When there is overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina is disturbed and bacterial vaginosis results.

Rinsing your vagina with soapy water or a cleansing detergent or douche as well as sex without a condom are risk factors for bacterial vaginosis. It is also common in women who have sex with women.

Signs and symptoms may include: Thin, gray, white or green discharge; foul-smelling "fishy" odour; itching; burning during urination.

Bacterial vaginosis makes women more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, herpes simplex virus, chlamydia or gonorrhoea. It may increase the risk of post-surgical infection after procedures such as a hysterectomy.

To prevent bacterial vaginosis, use mild, non-deodorised soaps and unscented tampons or pads. Use a male latex condom or female condom to minimise your risk of a sexually transmitted infection.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, DISA Clinic, 011-886-2286, visit safersex.co.za.

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