Why Do I keep getting BV?
It seems like every time you think you've cleared bacterial vaginosis symptoms for good, they find a way back into your life—unpleasant, uncomfortable, and unacceptable! If you are one of the 22 million women in the United States experiencing the symptoms of BV, like itchiness, unusual discharge, or odor, it can be awkward, to say the least. But the one thing you don't need to feel is shame, especially since reoccurring BV is so common—particularly within three months of your original diagnosis. According to a 2006 study, over 50% of people who get BV end up experiencing it again over the next 12 months. Definitely not something you need in your life.
While there are several reasons as to why your BV may keep coming back, there are different things you can do to help it hit the road for good. Read on to learn more about tackling recurring BV and what you can do to live BV-free.
So Why Does My BV Keep Coming Back?
Even if you know what causes BV, do you know what causes recurring BV? If you suffer from chronic BV, there are several reasons why it hasn't gone away for good. Some factors can include your use of perfumed hygiene products, your genital-washing routine and your choice of clothing. It's also possible that you didn't finish your prescription medications from your last BV encounter. If a doctor prescribes you antibiotics for BV, make sure to take the full cycle. Even if your symptoms appear to be gone, it's important to finish all of your medication to ensure you knock out the infection completely and don't build a resistance to the antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance makes it easier for BV to act as an uninvited guest---returning too soon and staying too long. and come back scratching at your door.
Other common triggers of chronic BV include:
- Heavy periods
- Having sex without a condom
- Changing sexual partners
- Having multiple partners at a time
- Hormonal changes
Each of these behaviors can affect your vaginal pH and increase your risk of a repeat bacterial vaginosis infection.
Since everyone's body and lifestyle are different, it can be difficult to determine the main trigger causing its reoccurrence. Luckily, your physician can help you identify if there's something causing your BV and advise you on how to proceed. You can also take note of what may have triggered it in the first place---many people opt to keep a personal health journal for tracking their periods and any other unusual symptoms that may come up.
How To Manage Chronic BV
If you experience reoccurring symptoms and want to know how to get rid of BV smell fast, you're likely prone to BV infections or have chronic or long-term BV. If this is the case, there are some things you can do to say "goodbye" to BV for good, including lifestyle changes, probiotics for BV and prescription medicine for bacterial vaginosis.
Consult With your Physician
The best way to prevent recurrent BV is to speak up when you notice a pattern of triggers. If you suspect it's returned, take an Online Symptoms Quiz to determine the best course of action. It's possible you may need to undergo treatment for a longer duration. This can include a variety of approaches, such as extended bacterial vaginosis antibiotic treatment. For example, if you get BV more than twice in a six-month period, you may need to undergo treatment for up to six months.
However, if you get BV frequently, multiple doses of antibiotics may wreak havoc on your gut health. As a result, many individuals look for a BV treatment without antibiotics. One of the most effective BV treatments is Boric Acid—an over-the-counter cure for BV that you can use daily, and especially after sex, that helps restore vaginal balance.
If a regular BV treatment doesn't seem to help, you may have another vaginal health condition that requires a different course of action. The best thing you can do at this point is to schedule an in-person appointment with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying causes. This allows them to run a variety of tests and prescribe other forms of treatment like diet, corrective genital hygiene regimens or high dose BV probiotics.
BV Antibiotics (Tablets or Gel)
Request topical or oral prescription antibiotics to treat bacterial vaginosis
Starting at $45.00/quarterGet Started
Clindamycin Cream (Cleocin)
Topical Clindamycin is a trusted prescription antibiotic approved by the FDA to treat chronic and first-time BV
Starting at $33.00/monthGet Started
Boric Acid Suppositories
An over-the-counter vaginal suppository custom made to help prevent & relieve infections
Starting at $9.00/monthGet Started
Change Your Lifestyle
If you're looking for some fast relief, consider making some changes to your lifestyle to avoid this vaginal annoyance. Here are some tips that can help relieve your BV symptoms and hopefully prevent it from returning in the future:
- Take showers instead of baths Opt for a shower that prevents lingering bacteria near your genitals. It's also best to avoid hot tubs or whirlpool baths as a precaution.
- Use unscented soaps, bubble baths, shampoos, and shower gels. Perfumed soaps may cause vaginal irritation, mess with your pH, and foster bacteria growth. Wash your genital area with water and plain, unscented soaps suited for sensitive bodies. In addition, use unscented or lightly scented laundry detergents for your undergarments, as strongly perfumed detergents may cause vaginal irritation.
- Avoid vaginal washes, douches, deodorants, and antiseptic liquids. When you attempt to clean your genitals in this manner, it can cause inflammation and increase your chances of getting BV again. These methods may also eliminate some good bacteria that protect against infection.
- Avoid smoking. Along with harming your other organs, smoking also has the potential to harm your cervix and vagina. In a 2014 paper, cigarette smoke showed a preliminary link to a higher risk of recurrent BV.
- Avoid sex until you finish your treatment. Err on the side of caution and practice abstinence until you finish treatment and no longer have an infection. Sex can make it more difficult for your body to overcome the infection and you may prolong your symptoms.
- Limit your number of sex partners. If you do have sex, limit your number of partners. When you have sex with multiple people, it can lead to a higher amount of BV bacteria and more disruption to your natural pH. In addition, it's important to practice safe sex and use a condom.
- Use all prescribed medications even after your symptoms have disappeared. Your symptoms will probably start clearing up once you start your round of antibiotics, but that doesn't mean the infection is gone. Finish up your prescribed round to completely get rid of BV.
- Wear loose clothing. If you want to avoid recurrent BV, hang your tight yoga pants and skinny jeans back up in your closet. Opt for loose-fitting clothing that promotes air movement in the vaginal area and discourages bacteria growth. As opposed to nylon and other materials that retain body heat and moisture close to your skin, loose, cotton clothing is best. You should also avoid nylon underwear while you're at it.
- Wipe from front to back. After you use the bathroom, wipe from front to back to prevent fecal matter from entering the urethra. This avoids bacteria build-up that can lead to chronic BV.
Lifestyle changes can be some of the most difficult decisions to make. To hear more tips and tricks, give The Wispering Podcast episode, "Down There Care," a listen. From discharge and warning signs to home remedies and trusted treatments, we'll lay out some easy-to-follow rules for getting healthy—and staying healthy.
When It Isn't BV
Bacterial vaginosis isn't the only reason you may experience an unusual smell down there. There are a number of different bacteria that may throw off your naturally balanced pH and cause an unpleasant odor. Maintaining your pH balance keeps the naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts in the vagina living in harmony together, but when it gets thrown off you can become more prone to infection.
Taking antibiotics or having unprotected sex can expose you to new bacteria or increase the chance of your good bacteria being overrun by the bad bugs that cause bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. STIs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomoniasis can all also lead to a sour or "fishy" smell. The good news? Every one of these conditions are surprisingly easy to treat. When you catch them early and treat them with properly prescribed medication, they generally clear up quickly.
Even if you experience recurrent BV, there's no reason it should keep you from your life. Use Wisp to get fast online treatment and get your meds delivered to your door, or sent to your local pharmacy for same-day pick up. If you have additional questions about your BV, take our Symptoms Quiz to connect with one of Wisp's healthcare professionals. We're happy to help you find the right treatment to clear up your BV and stop it from coming back.