Why Won’t My Bacterial Vaginosis Go Away? Experts Say These 5 Habits Can Throw Your System Off
Living with a vagina means taking care of it — a task that, thanks to years of taboo and stigma, may be easier said than done. One thing people with vaginas can run into is managing the delicate balance of bacteria that live in the vagina. That bacteria is typically a good thing, but if the balance is thrown off, it can lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV), a kind of inflammation. Bacterial vaginosis is typically treated with topical creams or an oral antibiotic, according to the Mayo Clinic but some people find that bacterial vaginosis may be recurrent, or hard to get rid of.
"Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina," Dr. Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, an OB/GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. It can cause symptoms like a thin discharge and burning while peeing, but up to 50% of people who have it don't get any symptoms at all.
If you tend to get BV repeatedly after your first infection, you shouldn't panic, says Dr. Valerie Fabre, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. "Recurrence of symptoms despite treatment is quite common," she tells Bustle. However, if you're experiencing BV that hasn't cleared up or won't stop coming back, experts tell Bustle it could be time to examine how you're treating it and other habits that can affect your vaginal flora.
1. You Use "Feminine Washes"
The human vagina doesn't need to be douched or cleaned internally, and if you're in the habit of using douches or so-called feminine washes regularly, that could be exacerbating BV, experts tell Bustle. "Douching alters the vaginal environment and should be avoided as this practice may precipitate BV," Dr. Fabre tells Bustle. Scented vaginal products are also a poor idea, explains Dr. Dixon-Shambley, as they can have the same effect, producing an imbalance in the natural flora of the vagina and putting you at risk of developing BV or worsening the infection
2. You Don't Make Your Sex Toys Squeaky Clean
If you were using sex toys before you were diagnosed with BV, it's vital that you make sure they're completely clean. "Be sure to clean any sex toys with soap and water as to not reintroduce bacteria," Dr. Dixon-Shambley tells Bustle. Depending on the toy's materials, it requires its own special cleaning routine. It's also important not to rely on condoms to prevent BV, explains Dr. Fabre, as it's a strategy that doesn't have "robust data" to support it.
3. You Rely On Probiotics & Home Remedies For Treatment
Hope your BV will go away if you treat it at home? That's not the best idea, experts tell Bustle. "I've heard patients try a multitude of home remedies when really they to just need to see their health care provider and get appropriate treatment!" Dr Dixon-Shambley says. And don't believe the hype about yogurt. Probiotic yogurt has only been shown to help BV in some small studies, Dr. Fabre says; the only probiotics that have been demonstrated to have any effect are vaginal suppositories that are prescribed by your doctor.
4. You Stop Your Medication Early
BV is treated by a very specific antibiotic, but even if you're feeling better, it's necessary to complete the whole course. "Once diagnosed with BV it is important to complete the medication as prescribed, as stopping early can cause a rebound of symptoms," Dr. Dixon-Shambley tells Bustle.
5. You Have Vaginal Intercourse While You Have BV
Got a hot date? It's probably a good idea to put it off until the end of your BV treatment. "It is best to avoid vaginal intercourse until after your treatment is complete, as this can prolong your infection and cause discomfort," Dr. Dixon-Shambley says. If you do want to get intimate, other forms of sexual activity are preferable until you get your BV sorted.
Treating BV can be relatively simple, so don't delay — and if your treatment doesn't work, it's a good idea to go back to your physician. "If your symptoms persist after treatment it is important to follow up with your doctor for further testing," Dr. Dixon-Shambley tells Bustle. That way, you can identify what might be causing the issue and target how to move forward.