Bacterial Vaginosis and Vitamin D

Studies Have Conflicting Results

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is one of three common types of vaginitis which includes vaginal yeast infection and trichomoniasis. It is the most common vaginal infection. One question that researchers are exploring is whether vitamin D deficiency might contribute to the risk of bacterial vaginosis, which is a risk factor for preterm birth.

Previously known contributing factors in the development of BV include hot weather, poor health, poor hygiene, use of an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, and routine vaginal douching, as well as the transference of E.coli from the rectum to the vagina during sexual intercourse.

If you're like many women, you may have thought that vaginal yeast infections are the most common vaginal infection. However, bacterial vaginosis is not caused by yeast, but instead is due to an imbalance in bacteria in the vagina, with the usual lactobacilli replaced by anaerobic bacteria.

Studies on Vitamin D Deficiency and Bacterial Vaginosis in Pregnant Women

Research published in The Journal of Nutrition (June 2009) found a link between low levels of vitamin D and bacterial vaginosis. An analysis of 469 pregnant women, which included 209 white women and 260 black women, found that over half of the women had vitamin D levels that were less that half of the generally accepted normal level of at least 80. Women whose vitamin D levels were less than 37 were more than 50 percent more likely to have bacterial vaginosis.

Significantly more black women had BV than white women with 52 percent of black women having the vaginal infection compared to only about 27 percent of white women who had the infection.

It's thought this difference may occur because darker skin simply doesn't synthesize the vitamin D as well as lighter skin when stimulated by sunshine.

However, a study from Zimbabwe of black women found no association between bacterial vaginosis and low vitamin D levels in either pregnant women or women who were not pregnant.

Study Finds High-Dose Vitamin D Doesn't Reduce BV Recurrence

Could taking high-dose vitamin D help women who have recurrent symptomatic bacterial vaginosis? A study of 118 women found no decrease in recurrences, even though they had significant increases in serum levels for the vitamin. The study was randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blinded.

Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency and Asymptomatic Bacterial Vaginosis

A study of women who had a vitamin D deficiency found that supplementation with 2000 IU/day of edible vitamin D for 15 weeks was effective in eliminating asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis. This study included 208 women in randomized intervention and control groups, with the control group receiving a placebo.

A Word From Verywell

Does this mean women should start supplementing their vitamin D intake or not? The evidence is still variable for bacterial vaginosis. Always talk to your doctor before you begin taking any supplements, as well as any herbs or other alternative treatments. Your doctor may recommend vitamin D, especially if you are of reproductive age, but this will depend on your individual factors.

Sources:

Bodnar LM, Krohn MA, Simhan HN. Maternal Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with Bacterial Vaginosis in the First Trimester of Pregnancy. Journal of Nutrition. 2009;139(6):1157-1161. doi:10.3945/jn.108.103168.

Modarres M, Taheri M, Baheiraei A, Foroushani A, Nikmanesh B. Treatment of vitamin D deficiency is an effective method in the elimination of asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis: A placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2015;141(6):799. doi:10.4103/0971-5916.160707.

Turner AN, Reese PC, Chen PL, et al. Serum vitamin D status and bacterial vaginosis prevalence and incidence in Zimbabwean women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2016;215(3). doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2016.02.045.

Turner AN, Reese PC, Fields KS, et al. A blinded, randomized controlled trial of high-dose vitamin D supplementation to reduce recurrence of bacterial vaginosis. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2014;211(5). doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2014.06.023.

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