Is Bacterial Vaginosis Preventable?

The Best Ways to Avoid This Common Vaginal Infection

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Is bacterial vaginosis preventable? While it is the most common vaginal infection in women, the scientific community does not have a clear understanding of what causes bacterial vaginosis or BV. It follows that medical researchers have yet to discover the best ways to prevent this most common vaginal infection.

However, scientists do agree that BV is associated with having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners.

In fact, it's rare for women who have never had sexual intercourse to develop bacterial vaginosis. They also recommend avoiding douching, which upsets the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina, allowing too much of the kind of bacteria that leads to bacterial vaginosis.

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis

When you have bacterial vaginosis, the good bacteria that are naturally found in your vagina, the lactobacilli, have become outnumbered by other bacteria, anaerobes. There isn't a specific bacteria that causes the infections, as in gonorrhea, but instead it is an upset in the balance of your personal ecosystem. This can then produce symptoms such as a fishy odor, itching, burning when you urinate, and a vaginal discharge. However, there may be no symptoms.

Best Ways to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis

The following basic prevention steps can help reduce the risk of upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and developing BV:

  • Not having sex or being abstinent is the best way to prevent bacterial vaginosis, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, viruses, and infections.
  • Limiting the number of sex partners you have reduces the risk of this and other vaginal infections, STDs, and HIV. This includes limiting both male and female sexual partners.
  • Not using vaginal douches also lowers your risk of bacterial vaginosis. Vaginal douching can force any bacteria that’s present in the vagina up into the uterus and fallopian tubes where other diseases or infections may cause significant health issues. While you might get advice from a friend or online about using natural douching products or medicated douching products, it is simply something that is now known to increase your risks of even more problems.
  • Using all the medication prescribed for treating bacterial vaginosis is vital to helping prevent recurrent infection. This applies even when the signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are no longer present.

What Doesn't Cause Bacterial Vaginosis

You can't get bacterial vaginosis from toilet seats, swimming pools, or from bedding, according to the CDC. 

Why You Want to Avoid Bacterial Vaginosis

Having bacterial vaginosis increases your risk of getting other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These can lead to further complications that can make it difficult to have children. If you are HIV positive, it also increases the risk of transmitting HIV, placing your sex partners at risk. If you have bacterial vaginosis while pregnant, your baby is more likely to be born prematurely or with low birth weight.

Luckily, bacterial vaginosis can be treated so these complications may be prevented.

Sources:

CDC Bacterial Vaginosis http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm

Forcey, Dana S. et al. "Factors Associated With Bacterial Vaginosis Among Women Who Have Sex With Women: A Systematic Review". PLOS ONE 10.12 (2015): e0141905.

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