Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your vagina. When certain types of bacteria (anaerobes) outnumber the good bacteria (lactobacilli), you can get BV. Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection, affecting 1 in 3 women at some point in their lives. Some women have recurring cases of BV. However, many women with BV do not show symptoms, and very mild cases can go away on their own.
Do I have BV?
If you have symptoms, it’s essential to see a doctor to get treated. Left untreated, BV can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility issues.
- Fishy-smelling vaginal discharge
- Burning during urination
- Itching around the outside of the vagina
- Redness or swelling of the vulva.
It can be hard to know if your symptoms are from bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, or trichomoniasis (an STI caused by a tiny parasite) [std link]. These all can have similar-looking symptoms and are common in women. To know precisely what you have and to receive the proper treatment, you need to visit a doctor and get tested.
Even women who receive successful treatment from a doctor can keep getting BV. So, let’s dive into why you keep getting bacterial vaginosis and ways to prevent BV from returning.
How BV Can Happen
How BV is Transmitted
While bacterial vaginosis is technically not an STD, BV is more common in sexually active women, especially with multiple sex partners and female sex partners. Women with BV can give their female sexual partner BV through vaginal sex, sharing toys without protection, and improper use of dental dams.
Though women who have sex with men are at a higher risk of getting bacterial vaginosis, women cannot get BV directly from men. Studies suggest that the higher risk is due to the different pH levels of sperm. The more sexual partners you have, the more likely you can get BV.
Furthermore, certain genetic and lifestyle factors can put women at higher risk of getting bacterial vaginosis and having recurring cases.
Risk Factors for BV
- If you are black, your risk for BV is twice as high as white women (source). However, this could be more related to the amount of physiological stress black women experience vs. white women.
- Have a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
- Use douches, vaginal deodorants, or harsh soaps in or around your vagina
- Hormone changes due to pregnancy
- Have an IUD, especially with irregular bleeding
- Have recently used antibiotics
- Regularly smoke
Stress and Poor Diet
- Have an increase of stress hormones due to physiological stresses (source)
- Have a diet that’s low in probiotic-rich foods
The good news is that you can control or eliminate most of these risks to reduce your chance of getting BV. By changing your hygiene habits, sexual activity, and diet, you can decrease your risk of bacterial vaginosis. Unfortunately, reducing risk factors alone may not stop you from getting BV.
Do I have BV?
If you think you might have bacterial vaginosis, contact your local OBGYN and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. However, before your doctor’s visit, it’s important to best prepare to have a more accurate exam and test results.
What not to do if you suspect you have BV – dos and don’ts
- Don’t have sex until you finish your treatment.
- Don’t douche or use vaginal deodorant sprays—they might mask odors that help doctors diagnose BV, irritate your vagina more, and make symptoms worse.
- Do take all the medicine prescribed even if symptoms go away.
- Do tell any female partners so they can get treatment.
- Do schedule an appointment with your doctor for a day when you are not on your period.
How to Prevent BV (Again)
In line with the risk factors listed above, one way to prevent getting BV again is to make changes to your lifestyle and hygiene. Your vagina’s pH is delicate, and several things can disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria.
Ways to prevent BV and BV recurrences:
- Wipe front to back, only using warm water to clean the outside of your vagina.
- Stop douching. Doctors do not recommend douching because it upsets your vagina’s natural balance of good and bad bacteria.
- Limit your number of sex partners.
- Test regularly for STDs.
- Use condoms and dental dams properly during sex. Use condoms on sex toys, and put a new condom on the toy before sharing it with your partner.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods like low-sugar greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and kombucha.
- Wear cotton underwear and change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing.
How an OBGYN Can Help You
Your vagina is important, so you should stay on top of your vaginal health. Listen to your body; if something is off, you must treat it as soon as possible. Your OBGYN can help you keep your vagina happy and healthy.
Because bacterial vaginosis can look like other infections, like yeast infections, an OBGYN can help you know what you have. They may perform a pelvic exam and take a sample of your vaginal discharge, which they will look at under a microscope. It’s important to know exactly what you have so your doctor can give you the right treatment.
For example, yeast infections can be treated with OTC medicines, while bacterial vaginosis cannot. Even so, it would be best to see your local doctor. For those who live in Brentwood or Franklin, TN, Cool Springs OBGYN is currently accepting new patients. They would be more than happy to see you.
Don’t self-diagnose or use OTC treatments, at-home remedies, or homeopathic medicines—even boric acid suppositories—unless your OBGYN tells you it’s ok.
Receiving the right treatment can help you get rid of your BV. If left untreated, BV can lead to premature birth in pregnant women, increase your risk of getting STIs, and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Also, if you keep getting BV, you should tell your OBGYN so they can figure out the best plan of attack to help you beat chronic BV. They know all the tricks and latest treatments that will work best for your lifestyle.
For example, your OBGYN might suggest taking a stronger dose of antibiotics, using a gel or cream instead of a pill, taking a daily probiotic, or something else.
See a Gynecologist in Cool Springs and Brentwood, TN, for BV Tests and Treatment
To see how you can get rid of your BV for good, please schedule an appointment at Cool Springs Gynecology and speak with Dr. Lodge and his team in Brentwood, TN. Our experienced team will help you learn about options that fit your needs best.
FAQ – Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- Why do I keep getting BV?
- There are multiple risk factors for bacterial vaginosis. Anything from genetics, sex partners, lifestyle, diet, and stress levels can trigger BV. Your OBGYN can help you discover the reasons why you keep getting BV.
- Can bacterial vaginosis cause spotting?
- Typically, BV causes a fishy-smelling, thin white or gray vaginal discharge. If you have unusual spotting, talk with your doctor to discover possible reasons.
- Can you have sex if you have bacterial vaginosis?
- Doctors recommend not having sex until you finish your treatment for BV, even if symptoms go away.
- How can I prevent BV after having sex?
- The only way to prevent getting BV from sex is to properly use condoms, properly use dental dams, use new condoms every time you share a toy with a female sex partner, limit the number of sex partners you have, and regularly test for STDs.
- Is there a natural treatment for bacterial vaginosis?
- Any treatment you use for your BV should be prescribed by your OBGYN—natural, otc, or otherwise.
- Can boric acid cure BV?
- While some research claims boric acid suppositories can treat recurring bacterial vaginosis, at-home treatments can lead to more issues. Please consult a doctor before using any treatment for BV symptoms.
- Can a man pass BV from one woman to another?
- No conclusive research explains how women get BV from sex with men. But the difference in pH levels of your partner(s) sperm and your vagina could be one reason. However, women can pass BV to each other through sex. If you have BV and a female sex partner, she should be tested as soon as possible.
If you have more questions about women’s health or bacterial vaginosis, call Cool Springs OBGYN in Brentwood, TN, at (615) 690-6600