Dear Dr Mitchell,
I had increased vaginal discharge a day before my last period — milky white like bacterial vaginosis (BV). However, it has not reappeared since my period ended. At the last check-up about four weeks before my period my doctor said I had BV, but I had had no odour or other symptoms and did not get any antibiotics. I still have no symptoms, just this random white discharge that one time. What could be the problem?
Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common vaginal infections in women. It may be present without any symptoms, but classically presents with a fishy odour and a greyish-white discharge. There may be associated itching in the vagina and also external vulval itching. It can occur even if you are not sexually active, and once you are sexually active you partner should be treated to reduce the risk of recurrent infection. In a lot of cases the doctor will detect this infection on a routine vaginal examination at the time of a Pap smear. It is important to treat this infection since in long- standing cases it can cause pelvic infections which may lead to a miscarriage.
It tends to be common in women who practise vaginal douching, use tampons, scented body wash and scented panty shields. Condom usage and multiple sexual partners will also increase the risk of recurrent vaginosis. However, the benefit of regular condom usage in preventing major sexually transmitted infections cannot be overemphasised.
It is quite normal to have a white vaginal discharge and it does not necessarily mean that you have bacterial vaginosis. However, the treatment for this infection is quite simple since you can take a single dose of Metronidazole 2 grams by mouth, and this will effectively clear it up. Your spouse can be treated in a similar manner. Alternative treatments include vaginal pessaries or gel. You should ensure that you get your regular Pap smear and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
Consult your doctor who will advise you further.
Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.