How to permanently stop recurring BV infections

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common form of vaginal infection. It develops when the mix of normally occurring bacteria in the vagina (the vaginal flora) becomes imbalanced and one type overgrows.

If you’ve been diagnosed and treated for bacterial vaginosis, the infection can come back. Research suggests that around 80% of people with BV experience a recurrence of the infection within three months of treatment.

Still, there are some ways you can reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis coming back. This article discusses possible causes, symptoms, and ways to prevent infection.

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What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the healthy balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina is disrupted. This causes a type of bacteria to grow out of control.

“Good” kinds of lactobacilli Bacteria help keep “harmful” bacteria in check by creating an acidic environment in the vagina. They typically make up over 70% of the bacteria in your premenopausal vaginal flora.

Sometimes helpful bacteria stop growing and other species can overgrow. Common bacteria that can cause BV include Gardnerella vaginalis, atopobium, ureaplasma, and mycoplasma Species.

causes

Often the exact cause of BV is unclear. Still, there are some known risk factors for developing BV, including:

  • Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy
  • Unprotected sex, sex with a new partner, and multiple sex partners
  • Douching and use of scented soaps
  • Recent use of antibiotics
  • to smoke cigarettes
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD)

symptoms

Some people with bacterial vaginosis have no symptoms. About 50% of people with bacterial vaginosis experience symptoms, which can include:

  • Vaginal odor, usually a fishy smell
  • Itching around and in the vagina
  • Burning when peeing and during intercourse
  • White or gray vaginal discharge

prevention

You may not be able to completely prevent infection. Still, there are some ways to lower the risk of BV. Here are a few tips for preventing BV:

Practice vaginal hygiene

Good vaginal hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection. You don’t have to do much to keep your vaginal area clean. Normally, warm water and possibly a mild, unscented soap in the intimate area is sufficient. Soap should not be used in the vagina.

Some other recommendations for good vaginal hygiene are:

  • Avoid showering.
  • Avoid washing with harsh or scented vaginal soaps or wipes.
  • Change tampons, pads, and pads frequently.
  • Wipe front to back after using the bathroom.

Consume probiotics

The good strains of bacteria, like lactobacilli, are essential for maintaining healthy vaginal flora and preventing infections. Several research studies have shown that probiotics (strains of “friendly” bacteria normally found in the body) help reduce the risk of BV recurring.

Probiotic supplements can be taken orally, or you could try a vaginal probiotic suppository. Both oral and vaginal probiotics appear to reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Eating a healthy diet with some probiotic foods also supports a good bacterial balance. Fermented foods contain probiotics, such as:

  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • tempeh
  • kimchi
  • miso
  • kombucha
  • pickles

Wear breathable underwear and loose clothing

The material your underwear is made of can affect your vaginal health.

Tight-fitting clothing and non-breathable materials around the vagina can increase temperature, moisture, and pH levels. This can change the environment of the vagina, making it easier for bacteria to overgrow and cause infection.

Try wearing loose-fitting silk or cotton underwear. And try to limit the time you wear tight-fitting clothing.

Use condoms

Using condoms during sex can do more than prevent unwanted pregnancy. It also protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and vaginal flora disorders.

A 2013 study found that consistent condom use was associated with higher concentrations of condoms lactobacilli. This suggests that condom use protects the balance of helpful bacteria and may reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Dealing with stress

Although you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, finding ways to manage your stress can help prevent BV from recurring.

There may be a link between the stress hormone cortisol and vaginal health. Cortisol has been linked to increased glycogen (sugar) in vaginal tissue, which can increase the risk of bacterial overgrowth.

Some ways to manage stress can include:

  • deep breathing
  • meditation
  • exercise
  • yoga
  • Make time for hobbies
  • take vacation
  • eat well

home remedies

If you suspect you have BV, it’s best to talk to your doctor about treatment. It may be tempting to try home remedies to treat BV, but most have not been proven effective and can even be harmful.

Here are some of the possible home remedies for BV:

Boric acid suppositories

Boric acid suppositories can support a healthy pH balance in the vagina. Some research shows that using these suppositories can help treat and prevent recurring BV and yeast infections.

Boric acid suppositories are available over the counter. Be sure to read the label and follow the directions. Do not use the product more than recommended. Avoid using it if you have an open wound around the vagina. Be sure to discuss the use of boric acid suppositories with your doctor before beginning.

Never ingest boric acid. It can be toxic if taken orally.

If you experience burning, irritation, redness, a rash, or unusual discharge after starting a boric acid suppository, stop using it immediately and contact your doctor.

Other home remedies

You may hear about other home remedies like tea tree oil, hydrogen peroxide, and apple cider vinegar. However, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove these options work. And they could damage vaginal tissues or make infections worse.

Be careful when using home remedies for BV as some may not be safe.

When to see a healthcare provider

It’s best to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of BV, such as unusual vaginal discharge, odor, burning, itching, or pain. They can assess your symptoms and give you the right treatment to relieve your symptoms as quickly as possible.

summary

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by bacterial overgrowth. Many people suffer from recurring infections and it is important to find ways to prevent infections from coming back.

While not all infections can be prevented, there are ways you can lower your risk. Practices like wearing breathable underwear, using condoms during sex, consuming probiotics, and managing stress can help prevent BV from recurring.

A word from Verywell

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection and there is no way to completely stop all infections. Still, you can lower your risk of developing BV with good hygiene and taking care of your general health. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of BV.

frequently asked Questions


  • How long does it take for BV to go away on its own?

    In some cases, bacterial vaginosis can go away on its own within a few days. However, it often requires treatment to clear the infection, and untreated BV can lead to health complications. It’s best to speak to your doctor for treatment if you think you have an infection.


  • Can Stress Cause BV?

    The stress hormones released in response to high levels of stress could increase the risk of BV. Cortisol has been linked to changes in vaginal tissues that can lead to BV infection.


  • What does BV discharge look like?

    During BV infection, vaginal discharge usually becomes thin, white, or dull gray.

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