We’ve all had it… you know what I’m talking about… the itch… down there. Where you want to take sandpaper to your lady parts. Yikes! One of my least favorite things ever! (Well, that and UTIs, but we’ll save that for another day…) So, what happens when you grab some Monistat and it just doesn’t do the trick? Or what if you don’t have the itching or irritation, but you notice ummm … you know a, smell down there?
Today we are going to talk about bacterial vaginosis or BV for short. Everything you ever wanted to know! First of all, a little bit about our normal vaginal health. Our vaginas (like our gut) need the good kind of bacteria (lactobaccilus) to be healthy. Our va-jay-jays also like to live in acidic environment (normal pH for your vagina is 3.8-4.5). Sometimes, the pH of our vaginas can get thrown off or the vaginal flora (bacteria) can be disrupted throwing everything off kilter and causing bacterial vaginosis. Our period, sex (semen), douching, using soap down there, and antibiotics can all disrupt pH or our normal flora.
If you have discharge or odor, how do you know if it’s your run of the mill yeast infection, BV, or something worse? Yeast infections usually cause itching or burning and come with thick, white, chunky discharge (think cottage cheese). BV, on the other hand, has thin, discharge and often has a “fishy” odor. Up to 20% of women can have both. If you’ve never been diagnosed, it’s a good idea to head into see your gynecologist for a pelvic exam and so she can look under the microscope to diagnose your infection accurately. If you absolutely don’t have time for this, there is an over the counter test to help! This test will help you know your vaginal pH is normal or abnormally high. If it is normal (and your symptoms are what I described above), you most likely have a yeast infection, and you can try some OTC treatment (word to the wise, skip the one-day treatments as they usually don’t work and stick with the 3- or 7-day treatments if you are going for an OTC yeast medication). If your vaginal pH is high, the stick will turn blue or green. This could mean BV or something else (like trichomonas). If this happens, contact your doctor (or use a telemedicine service like the one I work for MavenClinic to discuss your symptoms and OTC test results). There is no OTC treatment for BV, so you will need an antibiotic to start feeling better! If you have discharge and a new or multiple sex partners, always go in for an STI test to be safe!
So, since we usually get a period every month (unless you are on certain types of birth control it’s a bad sign if you’re not getting one!), and you probably don’t want to give up sex (I wouldn’t recommend it!), what is a girl to do?
- Stop smoking! If you smoke, this is one more reason to kick the habit! Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of BV.
- Practice safe sex! Limiting your number of sexual partners can decrease your risk of getting BV. If you are monogamous and get recurrent BV, think about using condoms to prevent this.
- Avoid douching! Ladies, listen up!! Whatever you do, DO NOT douche! Just say NO! Also, don’t waste your money on all those feminine washes and products that promise you a yummy smelling vag! All they do is get rid of the all important lactobacillus and make you prone to infections. All you need is warm water to wash down there. Avoid any soaps on any area that doesn’t have hair! You’re vagina is like a self-cleaning oven… it was meant to clean itself! While douching is a no-no, if you tend to get BV after sex or your menstrual, you can use RepHresh gel to restore the normal pH balance and prevent BV at these times.
- Take a probiotic. Although probiotics will not treat an infection, they can help prevent new infections by keeping your vaginal flora balanced. You can use vaginal probiotics, but oral probiotics work just as well. My favorites are RepHresh Pro-B and Renew Life Women’s Vaginal Ultimate Flora Probiotic.
Have more questions? Comments? Drop me a note below!