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How to prevent bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis or BV is an imbalance of the vaginal flora. This is one of the most common vaginal infections amongst women. There is a widespread belief that bacterial vaginosis is an STD, this is however not the case. BV also occurs in women who are not having sexual intercourse or who have been with the same partner for years. Also, bacterial vaginosis cannot transmitted between persons.

Bacterial vaginosis is an outgrowth of harmful bacteria. In a healthy vagina, these harmful bacteria are kept in check by the low vaginal pH that is created by lactic acid produced by the good lactobacilli flora. The vaginal pH can however increase (the acidity is reduced), for instance by reduction in the numbers of lactobacilli due to antibiotic treatment, or by neutralization of the low pH by alkaline sperm. In this situation, the harmful bacteria may take the opportunity to grow and cause vaginal complaints..

The most common symptoms of BV include changes in discharge (often discharge will be white or grey, foamy) changes in odour (usually strong fish-like), burning while urinating, itching and irritation in the vaginal area. Some of these symptoms resemble signs of thrush, so correct diagnosis is very important prior to starting the appropriate therapy.

There are, however, steps you can follow that help to prevent bacterial vaginosis.

“It is very important to be able to recognise symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and know when it is the right time to seek professional help”

What can you do to reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis?

  • Educate yourself – and this article is your first step in the right direction! It is very important for you to be able to recognise symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and know when it is the right time to seek professional help.
  • Practice safe sex – limit the number of sex partners and always use appropriate protection when having sex.
  • Avoid irritation in the vaginal region – this means avoiding hot tubs and whirlpool spas, using a natural intimate wash that doesn’t contain soap or harsh chemicals, and unscented sanitary pads, panty liners and tampons. Remember to dry the intimate area well after having a shower by tapping it gently with a soft, clean towel.
  • Choose cotton underwear instead of synthetic materials as the latter prevents the skin from “breathing”. This causes the temperature and moisture to increase, creating the perfect surroundings for bacteria to develop and prosper. Whenever possible, sleep without underwear.
  • Some scientists claim that the ideal way of preventing bacterial vaginosis from returning would be to stimulate the protective lactobacilli flora. This restoration of the good vaginal flora is important as antibiotic treatment of BV disrupts the lactobacilli flora, which results in a high rate of recurrence. Stimulation of the lactobacilli flora can be achieved by using prebiotic products that support the natural lactobacilli. Also, use of natural products that treat BV but do not affect the lactobacilli could be considered.