The Amsel Criteria is a widely used method to detect the presence of BV (bacterial vaginosis). Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common vaginal infections that affect an estimated number of 21 million women in the USA every single year. The only current medical treatment for bacterial vaginosis is the use of antibiotics. The antibiotics work by killing both good and bad bacteria in the woman’s body and giving her a “blank slate”. Bad bacteria overgrowth is what’s causing bacterial vaginosis, so after eliminating the bad bacteria we hope that the infection doesn’t return.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are not the perfect solution for bacterial vaginosis and they are found to be ineffective in 50% of women that take them to treat BV! As mentioned above, the antibiotics also kill the good bacteria – our natural defense against bad bacteria! The good bacteria is responsible for keeping our vaginal pH level a bit acidic (between 3.5 – 4.5) which then naturally prevents bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. If we don’t work to replenish the good bacteria that was lost during the antibiotic treatment, we’ll just make it too easy on the bad bacteria to come back.
Using the Amsel criteria to monitor yourself for bacterial vaginosis is a great option in cases where you’re unable to go see a doctor immediately. To consider positive for bacterial vaginosis, you need to satisfy 3 out of the 4 following criteria:
1) Your vaginal pH level is above 4.5 (not acidic enough to prevent bad bacteria from overgrowing and causing a BV infection).
2) You notice a thin, white, yellow discharge.
3) A fishy smell/abnormal odor. If you were previously diagnosed with BV, you are probably familiar with this type of smell.
4) Clue cells on wet mount microscopy (this is a test that has to be ordered by your doctor). Clue cells are vaginal cells that have bacteria adherent to their surface. The test will come back positive if under a microscope, the lab technician spotted the fuzzy looking bacterial cells that are coating the vaginal cells. Here is what a positive and negative test looks like (photo credit https://youngwomenshealth.org/):
While you are unable to test for clue cells at home, you are able to test yourself for the other 3 criteria and get a better idea of your health that way.
How to test your vaginal pH at home? Using a simple pH tester paper, anyone can test their vaginal pH level at home! All you need to do is get a small sample of your vaginal discharge using a Q-tip and spread if over the piece of pH paper. The paper will change its color to match the correct pH reading. You’ll simply compare the color of the paper to the attached color chart to see where you’re at.
Testing your vaginal pH level every day is also a great way to monitor your progression and health if you are prone to bacterial vaginosis and are trying to get rid of it for good! By testing your vaginal pH level every morning and night, you can pick up on what lifestyle activities may affect your pH level. For example, if you notice an elevated pH level after eating specific foods you may want to eliminate this food from your diet to help your body get to a healthy pH level. You can test out different lubes and/or condoms and see if they affect your vaginal pH level as well!
In conclusion, the Amsel criteria gives you more control and knowledge and helps you understand your body better. It’s a great tool to know about and use when dealing with BV! Please remember to always also consult with your doctor if you think you have a BV infection and if you’re unsure of your symptoms. Some of the BV symptoms could be a clue to other infections that require a different treatment.
As always please feel free to reach out to the V-Luxe team with any questions! We’re always happy to help!