Bacterial vaginosis affects around 25 percent of pregnant women every year in the U.S.1 Researchers are not sure how pregnancy plays a role in the development of this disease, but it is generally accepted that if left untreated, bacterial vaginosis can develop complications both on the mother and the unborn infant.
Pregnancy Complications That Bacterial Vaginosis Can Cause
If you're pregnant and have begun to experience symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, visit your doctor as soon as you can to prevent these complications:
- Premature birth: In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, you're 40 percent more likely to give birth prematurely if you have bacterial vaginosis.2
- Low birth weight: In the same study, low birth weight has been observed as a direct result of premature birth due to bacterial vaginosis.3
- Premature rupture of the fetal membrane: Researchers speculate that the microorganisms in the vagina can weaken the integrity of fetal membrane, which can cause your water to break early.4
- Postpartum endometritis: This is the infection and inflammation of the womb lining after giving birth, especially if you had a caesarean section.5
- Chorioamnionitis: The chorion and amnion membranes that make up the amniotic sac and the amniotic fluid that surround the unborn child can become infected if bacterial vaginosis remains untreated.6
In addition, bacterial vaginosis increases your risk of having an early miscarriage if you opt for in vitro fertilization. You may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as well, a condition that causes your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries to become swollen, increasing your risk of infertility.
Treating Bacterial Vaginosis When You're Pregnant
Should natural treatments fail, this may be the only time when antibiotics can be taken. You may be given metronidazole, a type of antibiotic that is taken twice a day for one week. However, there are side effects that you should be aware of. Most women who take it feel nauseated and may even vomit. To counteract this side effect, take it only when you have a full stomach.7
But before you take antibiotics, be aware that they are a risk factor for bacterial vaginosis in the first place. Your probiotics, which help protect your vaginal lining from harmful bacteria, are reduced by the medication through long-term use.
You can prevent them from being wiped out by consuming fermented vegetables and beverages, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement to replenish the beneficial bacteria that will be lost. Ideally, you should take a probiotic food or supplement a few hours before or after taking the antibiotic, and not simultaneously. This ensures that the antibiotic's effects do not negate the release of the probiotics into your system.