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What is the difference between Thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis?

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

This is important to know as Bacterial Vaginosis may require antibiotics, Thrush doesn't.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common infection of the vagina causing a change in your vaginal discharge. For most pregnancies, BV does not cause any problems. BV is easy to treat!

Symptoms of BV are usually:

• change in the colour of your normal vaginal discharge.

• unusual smell coming from your vagina or discharge.

BV usually happens when the type of bacteria in your vagina changes. In the vagina you have a mixture of 'good' bacteria called lactobacilli. If the good bacteria die off, other types of bacteria begin to grow. This change in bacteria upsets the acid balance of your vagina. This can cause more 'unfriendly' anaerobic bacteria to grow and cause BV.

If you notice a change in the colour or smell of your vaginal discharge, talk to your doctor or midwife. They will ask some Q’s about the discharge & a vaginal swab is often the best way to confirm BV. This test does not hurt. The swab will be sent to the nearest microbiology lab for analysis.

You may be prescribed an antibiotic. It may come as tablets, a cream or a gel. Always follow the instructions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist!


• When you are washing your genitals, you can just use plain water.

• If you would like to use something else to wash, don't use soap or shower gel. Soap can irritate the skin and alter the pH balance in the vagina. It is never recommended for washing genital areas.

• Take showers rather than baths if you have BV. Bathing is more likely to alter the pH balance in your vagina because you are sitting in the water.

• You do not need to clean your vagina more than once per day.


• douche your vagina (a douche is flushing, squirting or spraying water or other cleaning products into your vagina)

• use tampons when you are pregnant - these can introduce harmful bacteria

• use shower gels, shampoo or antiseptics to wash your genitals

• use deodorants or vaginal washes

It is not recommended to do perineal massage when you have BV. (This is a whole different topic with a post on its way!)

Thrush is an inflammation of the vagina and vulva (outer parts of the genitals). It is caused by a type of yeast called Candida. Pregnancy increases your risk of getting thrush. It is uncomfortable, but it won't cause any long term harm to you and won't harm your baby.

Symptoms of thrush include:

  • itching and soreness of your vulva and vagina

  • vaginal discharge - this is usually thick and white

  • pain during sex

  • stinging when you urinate

  • red, cracked and inflamed skin on your vagina and vulva

Visit your GP if you think you have thrush. Your GP may need to examine you and test with swab. Again, think of the swab as a long Q-tip. The test does not hurt and it will not harm your baby. Talk to your GP about treatment for thrush.

Do not buy treatments over the counter.

If you buy medicine without a prescription from your GP, always tell the pharmacist that you are pregnant.

Your GP may prescribe an anti-fungal cream. These creams are safe to use during pregnancy. Pregnant women with thrush should use the cream for at least 7 days.

Always wash your hands before and after using anti-fungal creams. Your doctor may also prescribe a “pessary”. Pessaries are tablets that are inserted into your vagina. Tablets for thrush taken by the mouth are not recommended during pregnancy.

You can prevent thrush and reduce the symptoms by:

  • wearing loose clothes and cotton underwear

  • avoiding perfumed soaps

  • never using douches or deodorants on your vagina

  • washing your genitals using an emollient soap - ask your pharmacist about emollient soaps

  • patting your vagina and vulva dry after washing

  • using condoms during sex to stop the thrush spreading to your partner

  • using non-perfumed panty liners or sanitary pads

  • changing out of damp swimwear or sweaty sports gear as soon as possible

**IF you have thrush or BV, talk to your partner and see if they have any symptoms. Both of these infections are transmissible. So, ideally, if you are getting treatment, your partner should too.

Here’s to #vaginalhealth !
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