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Vaginal flora 101: The good, bad, and ugly about bacteria down there

Published on:17 May 2021, 17:07pm IST
Your vagina contains different types of bacteria and not all of them are bad. Here are the things you should know about the bacteria in your vagina.
Aayushi Gupta
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There’s a delicate balance that your vagina needs to maintain! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Your vaginal area is one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Improper vaginal hygiene can lead to bacteria build-up, causing an infection known as bacterial vaginosis. It can result from a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria, occurring mostly due to hygiene issues.

Your vagina contains different kinds of bacteria and not all types of bacteria are bad. The fortunate part is that your vagina is designed to maintain the perfect balance between the good and bad. There are, however, certain changes that occur and disturb that delicate balance.

Here’s your ultimate guide on the bacteria down there:

1. Anyone with a vagina can develop bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal problem. BV doesn’t spread from person to person but being sexually active can increase your risk of developing this infection. You can still get it, even if you haven’t had sex but that’s very rare. You have a higher risk of developing BV if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Use douches
  • Don’t use condoms or dental dams
2. The bacteria called lactobacillus is healthy for vaginal health

Have you heard of the term ‘vaginal flora’? Well, vaginal flora refers to the bacteria in your vagina that keep it healthy. The normal vaginal flora is dominated by various lactobacillus species. Lactobacilli keep the vagina healthy by producing lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other substances that inhibit the growth of yeast and other unwanted organisms. This bacteria:

  • Maintains the pH balance of your vagina
  • Keeps vaginal inflammation at bay
  • Kills viruses that can lead to UTI and STIs
Maintain the number of lactobacillus bacteria in your vagina. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
3. Having sex can change the bacterial balance in your vagina

Having sex can disturb the balance of bacteria in the vagina which might increase your risk of infection. The bacteria that might get transferred to your vagina from your male partner after sex tend to wipe out the good bacteria. Women with higher levels of unhealthy bacteria are more likely to develop urinary tract infections or even give birth prematurely. Using condoms can help stop the spread of bad bacteria to your vagina. 

4. Bacterial vaginosis or vaginal infection can be detected with these symptoms

Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t always cause symptoms but there are some signs you can look out for. You could have BV if you develop symptoms like:

  • Itching around your vaginal area
  • Gray or white vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Change in vaginal odour
  • Pain during intercourse

Bacteria in your vagina play different kinds of roles. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be maintained in order to keep your vagina healthy!

Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.