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Have you noticed that you experience vaginal discomfort and itching during your period as well as the few days that immediately precede and succeed it? Since it's an ongoing problem, but also one that only strikes during this particular time in your cycle, you might conclude that it can't be caused by an infection — if it was, wouldn't you experience these symptoms all the time, after all?

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the vaginal flora!

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

The vaginal flora is, simply said, the collection of bacteria that live inside the vagina. While many people still associate bacteria with disease as soon as they hear the word, humans actually co-exist with, and depend on, many bacterial species. In the case of the vagina, it is mostly lactobacillus bacteria that help maintain the right pH balance and keep the vagina healthy. 

Bacterial vaginosis is a disruption of the vagina's natural flora that can result in itching sensations around the vagina, as well as a burning feeling while urinating and altered, foul-smelling, vaginal discharge. The vast majority of women who have bacterial vaginosis, 84 percent, do not have any symptoms, however. 

We should explicitly note that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease. Sexual intercourse may play a role in disrupting the vaginal flora, leading to bacterial vaginosis, but women who have never had sexual intercourse can experience it as well. 

OK, Why Am I Reading This? I Asked About Vaginal Itching Around The Time Of My Period!

Well, this is where things get really interesting. 

Quite a few studies have looked at the changes the vaginal flora undergoes throughout the menstrual cycle. It turns out that the bacterial balance in your vagina does, indeed, undergo changes that are linked to your menstrual cycle.

Research revealed that the vaginal flora is at its least stable around the time of menstruation. 

At that very time, the pH level of the vagina changes. The vagina's normal pH becomes more acidic under the influence of the hormone estrogen, and then more alkaline due to the presence of menstrual fluids. 

These changes create an ideal environment for bacterial vaginosis, possibly leading to symptoms such as vaginal itching and burning sensations while urinating. 

Bacterial vaginosis is more than simply irritating — it can leave you more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and even HIV. Disturbances in the vaginal flora may also lead to yeast infections, which are, again, incredibly itchy.

What Do I Do Now?

Any woman who notices vaginal itching, foul-smelling discharge, and burning while urinating, should seek medical attention. Don't assume that you can't have bacterial vaginosis because you only experience symptoms around the time of your menstrual period. 

While antibiotics can treat bacterial vaginosis, it is often a recurrent problem. Many women turn to probiotics in a bid to restore their normal vaginal flora, and despite lacking scientific evidence, plenty say that they have had positive experiences with probiotics. Since probiotics do not have any harmful side effects, you might conclude that they are worth trying. 

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