How to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?

Table of Contents

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection that affects millions of women worldwide. When certain bacteria overgrow in the vagina, they disrupt the natural balance of bacteria that dwells there.

BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)  is not an STD (Sextually Transmitted Disease), but it can raise the chance of getting other infections and cause problems during pregnancy. It is essential to know and use good ways to stop problems before they happen to keep the vaginal area healthy.

Understanding Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is when too much bacteria in the vagina causes inflammation. This overgrowth disrupts the normal balance of bacteria, leading to an excess of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive in low-oxygen environments) and a decrease in beneficial lactobacilli bacteria.

Symptoms of BV

Many women with BV have no symptoms; nonetheless, some frequent indications include:

  • Vaginal discharge that is thin, gray, or white and smells fishy
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Itching or irritation in the vaginal area

BV vs. Yeast Infection

While both BV and yeast infections are common vaginal conditions, they have distinct causes and symptoms. If too much Candida fungus grows, it can cause yeast diseases. BV, on the other hand, is caused by too many or too few germs.

Yeast infections often cause thick, white, and clumpy vaginal discharge, while BV discharge is typically thin and gray or white. An appointment with a doctor is essential for the proper evaluation and treatment.

Risk Factors for Bacterial Vaginosis

Several factors can increase a woman’s risk of developing BV. These include:

  • Sexual Activity: Having multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner can increase the risk of BV.
  • Douching: When you rinse the vagina with water or other fluids. It can upset the natural bacteria balance. It can also raise the risk of BV (bacterial vaginosis).
  • Smoking: Women who smoke have a higher risk of developing BV.
  • Intrauterine Device (IUD) Use: Women who use an IUD for birth control may have a slightly higher risk of BV.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter the vaginal environment and increase the risk of BV.

Specific demographics may also be more prone to BV, including:

  • Younger Women: BV is more common in women of reproductive age, particularly those between 15 and 44 years old.

African American Women: Studies indicate that African women are more prone to BV than women of other races or ethnicities.

Diagnosis and Treatment

How BV is Diagnosed

Doctors usually diagnose bacterial vaginosis based on a combination of factors, including:

  • Symptoms: Usually, to figure out how bad the problem is, doctors at primary care clinics will ask about signs like vaginal blood or a strange smell.
  • Physical Examination: During a physical examination, the healthcare provider may perform a pelvic exam to assess the vaginal and cervical area.
  • Laboratory Tests: A sample of vaginal discharge may be collected and analyzed to detect the presence of specific bacteria or to measure the vaginal pH levels.

Related, How to choose a primary care physician

Treatment Options for BV

Antibiotics are usually used to treat bacterial vaginosis. These can be taken by mouth or put on the skin (vaginal creams or gels). Common antibiotic treatments include:

  • Metronidazole (oral or vaginal gel)
  • Clindamycin (vaginal cream or ovules)

It’s essential to complete the entire course of antibiotics and take them as the doctor prescribes. Remember, self-prescription may cause additional complications, so always seek medical advice.

Risks of Untreated BV

If left untreated, BV can cause a number of issues, including:

  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea
  • Increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Increased risk of pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth or low birth weight.

Related, Primary care specialists

Prevention Strategies

Antibiotics can treat bacterial vaginosis. It’s essential to take steps to prevent it from coming back and keep your vagina healthy.

Preventing BV is crucial for several reasons:

  • It reduces the risk of developing other infections or complications.
  • It helps maintain a balanced vaginal ecosystem, promoting overall vaginal health.
  • It can prevent potential pregnancy complications.
  • It lowers the need for antibiotics, which can help make bacteria less sensitive to them.

Steps to Prevent BV

  • Avoiding Douching: Douching can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and increase the risk of BV. It’s best to avoid douching altogether.
  • Use mild, unscented soap when washing the genital area. Avoid harsh or scented products that can irritate the delicate vaginal environment.
  • Clean sex toys before and after use to prevent bacteria transfer. Use proper cleaning and disinfecting methods to keep them safe.
  • Limiting Sex Partners: Having multiple sexual partners can increase the risk of BV and other infections. Limiting the number of sexual partners can help to mitigate this risk.
  • Using condoms or dental dams every time you have sex can help prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause BV.
  • After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina.
  • Cotton underwear lets air move and keeps moisture from building up, which stops bacteria from growing in that area.
  • Don’t use scented menstrual products like tampons or pads. They can upset the vagina’s pH balance and raise the chance of BV.
How to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis

Recurrence and Management

Despite treatment, bacterial vaginosis has a high recurrence rate, with up to 50-80% of women experiencing a recurrence within 12  months after completing antibiotic treatment.

Likelihood of BV Recurrence

Several factors can increase the likelihood of BV recurrence, including:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Douching
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes during menstrual cycles or pregnancy

Managing Recurrent BV

If you experience recurrent BV, your healthcare provider may recommend the following strategies:

  • Longer courses of antibiotic treatment
  • Alternative antibiotic regimens
  • Probiotics or other vaginal supplements to help restore a healthy bacterial balance
  • Identifying and addressing any underlying risk factors

Importance of Completing Antibiotic Treatment

It is critical to finish the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve. Stopping treatment too soon can make the bacteria less sensitive to antibiotics and raise the risk of a return.

Are you struggling with recurrent bacterial vaginosis?

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The Final Words

Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection that can have significant impacts on a woman’s health and well-being. While drugs can help treat diseases, the best way to keep your vaginal health and keep them from coming back is to avoid them in the first place.

Do not douche, use mild soaps, have safe sex, and keep up with good vulvar care. These tips will help women avoid bacterial vaginosis and improve their general vaginal health.

If you have symptoms that won’t go away or come back, you should see a doctor so they can figure out what’s wrong and treat it. Protecting yourself and getting medical help when you need it can help keep your vaginal environment healthy and normal.

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Our Team
Dr Farhan Malik
Dr. Farhan Malik Primary Care Physician
Dr Shoaib Malik
Dr. Shoaib Malik Primary Care Physician
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