How Long Does Bacterial Vaginosis Last
After seeing your doctor and starting treatment with a prescribed medication, your symptoms will likely start improving within 2 to 3 days.
However, its important to continue taking your medication for the prescribed period of time, even if your symptoms have gone away. This will help ensure that the infection has completely cleared up, which typically takes about 7 days.
How Can I Lower My Risk Of Bacterial Vaginosis
Because bacterial vaginosis isnt fully understood, there are no foolproof ways of avoiding it. These steps may reduce your risk:
- Avoid douching. It changes the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. Instead, practice healthy vaginal and vulvar care.
- Avoid vaginal contact with anything that has touched your anus. Things like toilet paper and sex toys could transfer bacteria found in your poop to your vagina. Make sure sexual toys are properly cleaned after every use.
- Limit your number of sex partners. Research shows youre more likely to get BV if you have multiple sex partners.
- Use latex condoms or dental dams. Although its unclear why, research indicates that sexual activity is associated with BV.
- Wear cotton or cotton-lined underwear. Bacteria thrive in moist environments. Cotton helps wick away moisture.
Drink Lots Of Water And Stay Hydrated
One of the many awesome home remedies for BV at home is staying hydrated.
According to research, your vaginal skin should stay moist to allow adequate growth of the good bacteria.
Keeping this in mind, drinking enough water is one of the most effective Bacterial Vaginosis home remedies that you can try.
Water boosts your immune system and enhances the healing process. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses daily to prevent vaginal dryness and ensure proper pH balance inside the vaginal region.
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Treating Vaginal Infections If Home Remedies Aren’t Working
Tea Tree Oil Suppositories
Tea tree oil has natural antimicrobial properties, and research indicates that while it effectively kills a variety of BV-causing bacteria, it seems to preserve good Lactobacillus bacteria.
Meaning, compared to antibiotics, it appears to be more selective and less damaging to the overall vaginal microbiome.
But dont use straight tea tree oilinstead, consider short-term use of a tea tree oil suppository specifically meant to be inserted into the vagina.
My favorite BV remedy is tea tree oil suppositories used nightly for six nights, says Trubow. I like them because they work well, are cheap, are naturally derived, and are well-tolerated. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial agent, and I find it to be gentler to the vagina overall.
Because some people can be sensitive or even allergic to tea tree oil, experts recommend testing a small amount of the oil on your skin and waiting a day or two to see if you notice a reaction.
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The Unintended Consequences Of Conventional Treatments
The conventional treatment for bacterial vaginosis is the antibiotic metronidazole, which can be taken orally or applied topically to the vagina, or clindamycin.
A sample of the side-effects that can occur with metronidazole include:
- Disturbances of the gut such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
- Inflamed and sore mouth
- Liver disorders
- Disorder of the peripheral nerves called peripheral neuropathy that causes weakness and numbness
If using an antibiotic, I recommend always trying topical treatment first as this is less likely to cause serious medication side-effects.
Metronidazole has an 80 percent cure rate within 4 weeks, but the recurrence rate is disproportionately high: 15 to 50 percent of women who treat BV with metronidazole experience a return of symptoms within 3 months.
One theory about why the recurrence rate is so high after a course of antibiotics is that the drugs kill the bad bacteria, but they dont promote recolonization with good bacteria. Without some encouragement from topical or oral antibiotics, its tough for good bacteria like Lactobacillus to get a foothold and the bad bacteria just take over again.
In my practice, if a patient isnt pregnant or experiencing symptoms of BV complications, for example, abdominal pain, I recommend trying natural treatments first. They are healthier and less likely to cause recurrent infections, though admittedly, they do require a bit more work than just filling a prescription.
What Is The Quickest Way To Treat Bacterial Vaginosis
The fastest way to treat BV is to visit your doctor and get a prescription to treat the condition.
A prescription treatment will likely clear up your symptoms in 2 to 3 days. If youre pregnant or undergoing any medical procedures, its especially important to have your BV taken care of sooner rather than later.
Your doctor may prescribe an oral or vaginal antibiotic, like clindamycin, metronidazole, or tinidazole.
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Probiotic Suppositories And Supplements
Probiotics help restore the bacteria-yeast balance throughout your body.
If you start a regimen of oral probiotics that contain strains of the Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, you can bring your digestive tract and vaginal flora back into alignment. Eating yogurt is one way to increase probiotics.
Oral supplements take about 10 days to reach full effect, so some people use probiotics as vaginal suppositories to see results more quickly.
Probiotic suppositories have also been shown to be effective for treating vaginosis.
Symptoms Of Bacterial Vaginosis
The good news is that around 50 to 75% of women with BV dont develop symptoms, sparing them from various forms of discomfort. The bad news is that these individuals still have the associated pregnancy and STD risks that BV can bring, so its not a perfect situation.
Among those who do experience bacterial vaginosis symptoms , the most common is a vaginal discharge. This discharge will be thin, dull gray or white, and can sometimes appear foamy. It will also have a fish-like odor that intensifies during menstruation or intercourse as blood or semen interact with the chemicals the bacteria are giving off.
Bacterial vaginosis can result in itching and irritation along with a painful or burning sensation when urinating. It can also cause pain during intercourse and in some cases even light bleeding or spotting. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes. This causes a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease and can potentially lead to infertility.
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Treatment For Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics. An antibiotic cream or gel to use in the vagina may be given instead of antibiotic tablets by mouth.
While you’re there, make sure you tell the doctor or nurse if you:
- are pregnant
- think you might be pregnant
- are breastfeeding
These may affect the type of treatment you’re given.
How Can I Protect Myself If I Am A Female And My Female Partner Has Bv
If your partner has BV, you might be able to lower your risk by using protection during sex.
- Use a dental dam every time you have sex. A dental dam is a thin piece of latex that is placed over the vagina before oral sex.
- Cover sex toys with condoms before use. Remove the condom and replace it with a new one before sharing the toy with your partner.
A Natural Bv Protocol
There are a variety of all-natural botanical interventions that can be effective against BV. Heres my daily protocol.
Youll want to follow this for one week, and avoid sex during this time:
Heres my go-to suppository blend for treating both vaginal yeast and BV infections. I use this suppository in my practice for pregnant patients, but check with your midwife or doctor first.
- 1 cup cocoa butter
Consideration : Species Variation
The first and most important issue is the Lactobacillus species that have been used in clinical trials. While probiotic attempts have focused on the genus Lactobacillus, species within a genus are not interchangeable. Notably, vaginal Lactobacillus species are different from gut Lactobacillus, and their functional repertoire and ideal growing conditions markedly differ,. Species-specific characteristics may affect bacterial colonization or the microenvironment for bacteriabacteria and bacteriahost interactions. Among the common Lactobacillus species that dominate the vaginal microbiome, L. crispatus-dominated vaginal microbiome demonstrate high stability, whereas L. gasseri and/or L. iners are more conducive to the incidence of abnormal vaginal microbiome in longitudinal analysis. Moreover, even within the same species, different L. crispatus strains from a vaginal tract or intestinal tract demonstrate phenotypic variations that allow the bacteria to adapt to the different environments,. Furthermore, several recent studies have also indicated that different strains of vaginal L. crispatus demonstrate significant differences in genes for glycosylation and glycogen degradation, as well as antimicrobial and inflammatory properties, which may affect the colonization efficiency of L. crispatus and also the treatment effect on BV,.
Table 1 Short-term clinical trials using probiotics for bacterial vaginosis treatment without antibiotics.
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What Should I Do If I Have Bv
BV is easy to treat. If you think you have BV:
- See a doctor or nurse. Antibiotics will treat BV.
- Take all of your medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antibiotic.
- Tell your sex partner if she is female so she can be treated.
- Avoid sexual contact until you finish your treatment.
- See your doctor or nurse again if you have symptoms that dont go away within a few days after finishing the antibiotic.
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Testing For Bacterial Vaginosis
If you think you have bacterial vaginosis you can make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
Your nurse or doctor may perform an internal examination to check the vagina for signs of bacterial vaginosis and use a swab to collect a sample of the discharge from your vagina.
A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud and collecting a sample only takes a few minutes. Although not painful, it may be a little uncomfortable for a moment.
A specially coated paper may be used to test the pH of your vagina.
Sometimes a diagnosis can be made straightaway because of the distinctive appearance of the discharge. Sometimes the sample will be sent to a lab for testing.
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Ask About Boric Acid Suppositories
Boric acid has been used to maintain vaginal health for centuries. Its available over-the-counter as a vaginal suppository.
Some recommend using it alongside antibiotic treatment. A on the use of boric acid shows its a promising effective treatment.
A clinical trial is also being conducted to determine whether vaginal boric acid suppositories are as effective at treating BV as antibiotics. The results are pending.
Boric acid poses some serious risks. If taken by mouth, it can lead to poisoning and even death. Pregnant people shouldnt take boric acid, as it can pose risks to a developing fetus.
Speak to your healthcare provider if youre considering this option to make sure its safe for you.
Is Bv A Sexually Transmitted Infection
BV is not a sexually transmitted infection. However, the CDC notes that BV occurs most often in people who are sexually active, and that BV rarely affects people who have not had sex. Not using condoms or having new or multiple sex partners can sometimes increase a persons risk for developing BV.
“Sex sometimes leads to BV if your partner’s natural genital ‘chemistry’ changes the balance of bacteria in your vagina and causes the bacteria associated with BV to grow, Dean explains. If you have BV, your sexual partner with a penis generally does not need treatment for BV. BV may spread between partners with vaginas. Although BV is not an STI, having BV increases your chances of becoming infected with an STI, including HIV, if you are exposed to one. If you are HIV positive, untreated BV increases your chances of passing HIV along to your sex partners.”
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Is Yoghurt An Effective Treatment For Bacterial Vaginosis
Some women with BV say that things settle more quickly and symptoms are eased by applying a thin coat of plain, live yogurt to the outside of the vagina daily, and by applying a small amount of plain live yoghurt on a tampon for internal use before bed.
The evidence that live yoghurt is helpful in treating or preventing BV is mixed, with some trials saying that it is helpful and some saying that it is not helpful. Overall specialists feel that there is not enough evidence in its favour to suggest it over other treatments.
Tips For Choosing The Best Bv Treatment For You
You should see a healthcare professional in person if you suspect you have BV. They can give you a pelvic exam and collect vaginal swabs and a urine sample to test for the presence of any bacteria or infection.
But if thats not an option for you, you may have to decide between a virtual doc visit and an at-home testing kit.
So, how do you decide?
A testing kit like the ones from myLAB Box and LetsGetChecked can be helpful if youre pretty sure your symptoms are caused by some kind of bacterial overgrowth or infection.
Some kits can test for specific bacteria , while others can only tell you whether an infection might be present. If youve had BV before or get it often, this could be a good route for getting antibiotics without going to the doc.
Obvi, a virtual visit to the doc doesnt involve a pelvic exam. It might not even involve any lab testing. But the doc can help you figure out if your symptoms warrant an in-person visit or potentially send you a kit to test yourself at home.
Find out whether the telehealth service youre considering takes insurance or offers low cost options for those without insurance.
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The Difference Between Bv And A Yeast Infection
Many women understandably confuse BV with yeast infections, but because they have different treatments, identifying what youre dealing with is a crucial first step.
Sometimes telling the difference between BV and a yeast infection is clearcut, and sometimes it’s tricky, says Trubow. Yeast often causes a thick, curd-like discharge, is super itchy, and can smell a bit yeasty. While BV often has a thinner, watery discharge, can also itch, and usually has an odor reminiscent of old fish or smells foul.
Unlike the bacterial imbalance that occurs with BV, a yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina called Candida albicans.
Many women get yeast infections after taking antibiotics, and some experts link the consumption of simple sugars and refined carbs to yeast overgrowth in the vagina and other areas of the body.
While conventional treatment for BV typically includes an oral or topical antibiotic such as metronidazole or clindamycin, treatment for yeast infections involves an antifungal such as fluconazole.
For both conditions, however, there are a range of natural strategies that can alleviate symptoms and curb risk.
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Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci
Bacterial vaginosis, commonly known as BV, is the most common vaginal infection in the USwhich means it’s more prevalent than yeast infections. Affecting more than 21 million women between the ages of 14 and 49, according to the Centers for Disease Control , more likely than not, you’ve probably had BV at some point in your life. Caused by an overgrowth of vaginal bacteria, BV can be uncomfortable, with symptoms such as itching, odor, and discharge. Alternatively, sometimes BV doesn’t manifest symptoms, so people with the infection might not know they have it. Either way, treating BV is essential, especially if you’re pregnant. The CDC notes that left untreated, BV might lead to premature birth or low-birth-weight babies. Additionally, if left untreated in non-pregnant women, BV can increase the risk of other infections and cause a host of vaginal issues.
On that note, please note that the remedies provided ahead are meant to eliminate BV cases in conjunction with antibiotics, or to be used as preventative measures against the infection.
Meet the Expert
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