How can I prevent BV from recurring?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of certain vaginal bacteria. It is a very common condition and may manifest as vaginal discharge, odor, and soreness; however, it is often asymptomatic. BV is known to recur often, even after complete treatment. Fortunately, there are many ways to both reduce the risk of developing BV and avoid its recurrence.
Once diagnosed by a physician, BV is often treated with antibiotics. However, it tends to return within months of initial treatment. To reduce the chances of this happening, you can take the following steps:
Maintain proper vaginal hygiene
Vaginas are self-cleaning and there is little you need to do to help. All you need to do is rinse your vagina with warm water and try to:
- Stop douching as douching increases the chances of getting BV
- Not keep a pad, tampon, or panty liner on for too long
- Not use fragranced vaginal products, such as wipes and sprays
- Avoid wiping the toilet paper from back to front
Use cotton underwear
Breathable, lightweight, and loose-fitting underwear improves vaginal health. Therefore, choosing a natural fabric such as cotton over synthetic fabric reduces your risk of developing BV. Also, consider switching to a hypoallergenic laundry detergent if you have sensitive skin in your vaginal area. Taking off your underwear at night to allow the vagina to breathe is also a good idea. If you are concerned about moisture buildup on your underwear during the day, try using panty liners.
Try using boric acid suppositories
Boric acid is a centuries-old treatment for vaginal disorders. It can be purchased as a BV suppository over-the-counter and used alongside conventional antibiotic treatment. One retrospective study supported the use of boric acid for BV, and a clinical trial is already underway to determine the effectiveness of boric acid in comparison to antibiotics.
Boric acid needs to be used with caution since oral ingestion can be poisonous and possibly fatal. Since it can be harmful to the fetus, boric acid should not be used by pregnant women. To ensure that you can safely use boric acid, consult a healthcare professional.
Use condoms during intercourse
Heterosexual women can develop BV after intercourse due to disruption of the vaginal flora. One study done in 2011 showed that exposure to semen increases the risk of developing BV. Oral sex has a similar effect. Research shows that the transfer of bacteria to the vagina through saliva may cause bacteria overgrowth and, ultimately, bacterial vaginosis.
Keep your vaginal pH in the normal range
A high vaginal pH indicates that the vaginal fluid is alkaline; this condition leads to bacterial infections. Consequently, it is important to keep vaginal pH low, i.e. acidic, to prevent BV. Lactic acid gels can help accomplish this task; they are available in OTC products such as Gynalac, Gynofit, and Canesbalance.
Lactobacilli are healthy bacteria that help maintain an acidic pH in the vagina. A clinical trial conducted in 2020 showed that taking Lactobacillus orally after antibiotic treatment helps prevent reinfection. More research is needed to support this claim, but the results are promising. Many over-the-counter vaginal probiotic supplements and foods such as yogurt contain lactobacilli.
Fight stress in a healthy way
You are bound to get stressed at some point during of your life. Not dealing with it promptly creates negative health outcomes, including an increased risk of BV. This claim is supported by a 2008 study that showed a correlation between cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and the incidence of BV.
You can manage stress through plenty of healthy coping mechanisms which can help decrease the adverse effects of high cortisol levels on your body. Some of these coping mechanisms include:
- Yoga and meditation
There are many different forms of yoga that alleviate stress.
- Deep breathing exercises
Diaphragmatic breathing is a relaxation technique that has been proven to decrease stress levels and improve cognition.
- Working out
Physical activity increases the levels of mood-boosting hormones called endorphins. Endorphins help alleviate stress.