Feel Good

What the funk is my vagina trying to tell me?

Discharge, a whiff or an unusual itch? Here’s what you need to know about Bacterial Vaginosis…

Written by High Life North
Published 22.04.2023

Vaginal health problems can be tricky to identify.

Fortunately for many of us, intimate health brand Balance Activ is here to set the record straight on one issue in particular – Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV.

‘It’s really important that women feel empowered with the right information, tools and products to be able to identify BV,’ says Dr Shazia Malik, a leading Gynaecologist and Obstetrician.

‘Most women have heard of thrush and just assume that’s what their vaginal problem will be, but actually BV is more common. In fact, 66% of women mistake BV symptoms for thrush, resulting in the wrong treatment, when a naturally working solution for BV is available on every high street. With mis-diagnosis being so prevalent, it’s really important to educate women about what to look out for.

‘Here are my top tips for identifying and dealing with BV…’

Understand the symptoms

The classic itchiness of a yeast infection can make BV easy to confuse with thrush, but remember there are three symptoms, which set it apart:

  • Thin, watery, greyish-white discharge that has a fishy odour, which gets stronger after sex
  • Occasional discomfort
  • Possible redness and irritation of the skin around the vulva


Understand how BV differs from thrush

One of the key differences with thrush is that the discharge is odourless and it is also thicker, white and with a curd-like consistency.

With thrush, you are more likely to experience pain during sex, which is not the case with BV. Understanding these fundamental differences should make it easier to diagnose.

Understand the triggers for BV

There are several things which may trigger BV, so understanding these will help to keep occurrences and re-occurrences at bay.

  • Taking antibiotics – of course you should take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a side effect is that they may weaken the good bacteria of your vagina, which is a potential trigger for BV. My advice is to try a non-drug based, over-the-counter remedy such as Balance Activ.
  • Using antiseptics – a side effect of antiseptics is that they also kill the good bacteria, leaving the vagina more vulnerable to imbalance.
  • Using medicated or perfumed soaps – it’s better to use non-perfumed soaps. This is because perfumes, soaps and douches kill bacteria, including the good bacteria that your vagina needs, and therefore are a trigger for BV.
  • Being sexually active and changing partners – because semen is alkaline and the vagina needs to be slightly acidic, having regular sex or sex with different partners can disrupt the pH balance.
  • Having sex without a condom – having unprotected sex with a male partner can bring on a bout of BV.

Know how to keep your vagina happy

Keep your vagina healthy and happy in the following, easy ways:

  • Be aware that tight pants and thongs make it harder for the vagina to breathe, which is not ideal when trying to keep BV at bay.
  • Don’t stay in sweaty exercise clothes, as this provides the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria.
  • Wash the vulva with warm water or fragrance-free and pH-balanced products. Douching is bad for the vagina as it’s self-cleaning. Also, avoid perfumed products around and inside the vagina, as these can disrupt the pH balance, as could bubble bath and shower gel.


Check your symptoms

Last but not least, use this handy, free symptom checker by Balance Activ™’ to understand more about your symptoms.

If you’re unsure, always speak to your pharmacist or GP before choosing products.

BV is very common, completely natural and easily relieved with clinically proven Balance Activ™ gels and pessaries, which should start to work after just one dose.

Balance Activ™ products are available nationwide from Boots, ASDA, Morrisons, Tesco, Superdrug and amazon.co.uk


Dr Shazia Malik is a highly experienced consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

She gained her medical degree with Honours and the Gold Medal in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1991. Since then, she has trained in Obstetrics in some of the largest tertiary level units in the country.

She undertook her specialist training in Cambridge, where she was also a research fellow funded by the MRC, working with a world-famous team looking at abnormal vessel function in women with excessively heavy periods or endometriosis.

She went on to successfully complete her subspecialty accreditation in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at the prestigious University College Hospital in London (UCH), at which she still remains an Honorary Consultant.

Dr Shazia has also worked as a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist as a part of the Recurrent Miscarriage team located at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington and also as a Consultant in IVF at CRGH, well known as one of the country’s leading IVF units.

Whilst gaining her subspecialty, she continued her interest in Gynaecological Ultrasound at Kings College Hospital and set up the Early Pregnancy and Emergency Gynaecology unit at Barnet Hospital in North London

She is part of a busy NHS team working in both Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as well as one of only a few Subspecialists in Reproductive Medicine offering private Gynaecological and obstetric care.

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