It is estimated that 3 out of 10 women who have been treated for BV have a recurrence of symptoms within 3 months and more than half experienced a recurrence within 12 months.
When symptoms reoccur within a short period, it is more likely that the treatment failed to eradicate the offending bacteria and normal vaginal flora was not restored. If being treated with an antibiotic, it is imperative to take the medication as prescribed and complete the course. Often patients feel better during the course of the treatment and stop taking the medication, but you must always complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed.
There is no single causative agent of BV, however, some of these are incorrect vaginal hygiene practices, sexual activity, and hormonal changes. Read further on some of the common BV causes here.
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Sexual activity and BV
Though BV is not categorized as an STI, numerous scientific studies strongly support that it is sexually transmitted. Many BV-associated bacteria have been isolated from the male penile skin, urethra, and semen. Uncircumcised males tend to harbor more bacteria creating a greater risk of infection for women. Using a condom during sexual intercourse can greatly reduce the risk of BV.
Things you can do to prevent BV
Avoid douching, using scented soaps, taking baths, and vigorous washing as they can disturb the pH of your vagina, foster bacterial growth and cause irritation to your skin.
Don’t smoke. There are plenty of health risks associated with cigarette smoking, one of them being that smokers are at increased risk of getting BV.
Alcohol should be avoided while taking antibiotics as it causes unwanted medication side effects. You should avoid sexual activity or use a condom when undergoing treatment for active BV as you may be introduced to more bacteria rendering the treatment ineffective.
Use a condom, particularly if you are having sexual activity with multiple partners, this will help to reduce the chance of bacteria entering your vagina. A secondary alternative to this would be to have your male partner wash their genitals prior to intercourse.
Get frequent STD testing. The presence of other STIs is associated with an increased prevalence of BV. You may have another STI that could be contributing to the development or recurrence of BV. BV can also increase your risk of acquiring other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and herpes simplex virus type 2.
Treatment options for recurring BV
If you are still suffering from frequent BV infections after making these lifestyle modifications, consider talking to a health care provider. Currently, the only proven interventions to reduce the development and recurrence of BV are circumcision of male partners and chronic suppressive therapy consisting of antibiotics and boric acid suppositories.
What is boric acid?
Boric acid is a weak acid that has antiseptic properties. Vaginal boric acid suppositories work against BV by helping to restore normal vaginal acidity and balancing vaginal flora.
After treatment with an antibiotic, Metronidazole a provider may suggest the use of vaginal boric acid suppositories for the following 30days.
Long term maintenance antibiotics are typically considered when a patient has more than three episodes of BV in less than a year.
Metronidazole gel for 7-10days may be prescribed followed by twice-weekly dosing of gel for four to six months.
LACTIN-V is another intravaginal treatment that is currently undergoing clinical trials that would be used for 11weeks. If approved by the FDA, this will soon be another option.
If you are affected by frequent BV infections, do not despair. There is always hope. Speak with one of our doctors today to help create a treatment plan unique to you and your vaginal health.
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