One of the most common vaginal infections is bacterial vaginosis. Unfortunately, it is often underdiagnosed and untreated since not many are aware of the fact that they have it, nor do they know about its basic symptoms. However, there are cases in which people get their bacterial vaginosis treated at the right time but keep getting it again and again. In this article, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and why it can occur repetitively.
What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
First, one needs to understand what exactly they are dealing with. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) affects the mix of bacteria that is naturally present in the vagina. The infection occurs when the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina becomes upset by the harmful bacteria – both are present in the vagina and manage to balance each other out. This imbalance causes the infection.
Although the infection is not contagious, it is much more common among sexually active individuals. As a matter of fact, women not sexually active rarely develop bacterial vaginosis.
What are the Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
Now, there is not enough data to determine the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis; however, there is a strong belief among experts that sexual intercourse is one of the main contributing factors.
Primarily, the balance of bacteria in the vagina can be altered through the following:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse
- Sexual intercourse with a new partner
- Sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- Other practices, such as douching
These factors can significantly increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Furthermore, bacterial vaginosis is also common among people who are pregnant. In such cases, bacterial vaginosis is likely triggered by hormonal changes that are often associated with the risks of pregnancy.
Moreover, it is vital to remember that bacterial vaginosis is not the same as having a yeast infection. Even though both infections have similar symptoms, they have entirely different causes. An overgrowth of fungus typically causes yeast infections, whereas an overgrowth of bacteria causes bacterial vaginosis.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
First of all, a person can have an infection known as bacterial vaginosis without displaying any type of symptoms at all. In fact, most of the time, people do not even know that they have the infection. However, in some cases, people do experience symptoms, and they may include:
- Burning sensation during urination (similar to that of a UTI)
- Itchiness, irritation, or abnormal pain around the opening of the vagina
- Off-white or grey vaginal discharge, which can be accompanied by a ‘fishy’ odour
- Fishy odour during sexual intercourse, which can intensify after sex
Why Do I Keep Getting Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
First and foremost, bacterial vaginosis often returns after a few months. If you got your bacterial vaginosis treated and it continues to return repeatedly, then the main reason might be sexual intercourse. If you are having sex with the same partner and are getting bacterial vaginosis, you can try some of the following tips to prevent that from happening:
How do I Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) from Returning?
Taking the following steps might be able to help you reduce the risk of recurring bacterial vaginosis:
1. Pay Attention to Vaginal Hygiene
Paying attention to vaginal hygiene does not mean you need to clean your vagina again and again. In fact, you do not need to do much to keep your vaginal area clean. Just rinsing the area with warm water every day is enough.
In addition, try to:
- Avoid douching
- Wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating
- Change liners, pads, or tampons as often as you can
- Avoid using scented or deodorising vaginal products, including sprays and wipes
2. Wear Breathable Underwear
Underwear is an integral part of vaginal hygiene. It may even influence the overall health of your vagina. In general, it is never a bad idea to choose underwear that is loose-fitting, lightweight, breathable, and made from a piece of natural fabric such as cotton.
In addition to this, use a laundry detergent that is made with natural ingredients. Look for hypoallergenic laundry detergent since it soothes the skin around your vagina – especially if it is prone to irritation.
3. Get Boric Acid Suppositories
Boric acid has been used to maintain and improve vaginal health for centuries. It is completely safe and is available over-the-counter (OTC) as a vaginal suppository.
You can use it with antibiotic treatment, too. A study shows promising results in using boric acid with antibiotics to treat bacterial vaginosis. However, boric acid comes with some serious health risks. If boric acid is taken by mouth, it can lead to poisoning and even prove fatal. Therefore, doctors and experts strongly advise against pregnant women taking boric acid as it can pose a handful of risks to a developing fetus.
4. Use Condoms or Dental Dams
It is always a bad idea to have unprotected sex. Not only does it increase the risk of pregnancy, but it can expose individuals to a wide array of sexually transmitted diseases. So, if you have sexual intercourse, exposure to semen can disrupt your vaginal flora. This means that if you have been treated for bacterial vaginosis, consistently using condoms may prevent the infection from returning.
It is crucial to note that oral sex may also increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. According to research, human saliva can transfer bacteria into the vagina, possibly leading to a significant bacterial overgrowth. This overgrowth can help create an environment which allows bacterial vaginosis to flourish.
5. Try to Maintain a Healthy Vaginal pH
When the pH of a vagina is too high — either too basic or alkaline— it may increase the growth of bacteria commonly associated with bacterial vaginosis. You can prevent the pH from becoming too alkaline by using medicated gels like the ones that contain lactic acid.