Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal condition in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) between the ages of 15-44. It’s caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include a strong vaginal smell, vaginal itching and milky vaginal discharge.
As if BV symptoms aren’t bad enough, some people experience recurrent BV— BV that comes back after bacterial vaginosis treatment. More than 50% of such cases come back within 3-5 months. Sometimes, the same infection returns. Other times, a new infection hits home.
If you’ve experienced recurrent BV, don’t despair! Read on for a few reasons why your BV may come back. Plus, how you can get a BV prescription online through Dr. B’s virtual health platform.
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s not contagious. And it can't spread from person to person. But having sex does increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.
The risk of developing BV also increases if you:
The reason bacterial vaginosis keeps coming back isn’t entirely clear. Antibiotics often clear out the bacteria that cause BV. But harmful bacteria can regrow if re-introduced from sex or other irritants.
Some researchers think that the bad bacteria can hide out in biofilms. These are groups of bacteria that stick together and make it hard for antibiotics to reach them. Biofilms may make it hard for BV pills and antibiotic creams to reach and clear harmful bacteria.
Sexual partners may play a part, too.
If you keep getting BV with the same partner, their genital chemistry may cause your vaginal irritation. Having your partner tested (and possibly treated) for BV may help. BV symptoms may lessen during treatment but still present. So finish your full course of BV treatment before having sex again.
Antibiotics are the first choice for treating bacterial vaginosis and usually work well. But up to 15% of people need a second course of treatment. Even when treated successfully, BV comes back for more than 50% of people within a few months.
Boric acid suppositories may be an option—especially when combined with antibiotics. Boric acid helps BV because it has antifungal and antibacterial properties that can lower the pH of the vagina. Boric acid suppository treatment isn’t right for every condition. So it should only be used under the direction of a medical provider.
Over-the-counter suppositories aren’t regulated by the FDA, making it impossible to know whether an individual product is safe. If you do have boric acid suppositories in the house, keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Boric acid is toxic if swallowed!
Chronic BV can be really frustrating. And BV doesn’t always cause symptoms. The only way to know you’ve cleared the infection is with a vaginal culture taken two weeks after completed treatment. A medical provider can help you find ways to treat BV online and prevent it from coming back.
People who get bacterial vaginosis over and over might need long-term antibiotics to help permanently clear up the infection. Lifestyle changes can prevent recurrent BV, too.
You can help prevent bacterial vaginosis by avoiding irritating products. These include douches, vaginal deodorants or sprays and scented tampons or pads used during a menstrual cycle. Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help, too, as bacteria grow best in warm, moist places.
Support your immune system with a healthy diet and lifestyle and don’t smoke. Smoking changes the way your body fights off infections. So it’s linked to higher rates of BV and STIs.
If you keep getting BV, you haven’t done anything wrong. If you have questions about recurrent BV, talk to a medical provider. They’ll help you review your current hygiene and sex habits to reduce your risk. And they’ll help you find a treatment to clear it up for good.
If you’re ready to discuss or find bacterial vaginosis treatment online, Dr. B can help.
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