Only very few studies show that men could spread BV to women. It’s not enough reason to say that your man is cheating. But, it could be that your boyfriend got BV-causing bacteria and transferred it to you. Still, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions yet because your lifestyle could play a significant factor here. Another thing, maybe you didn’t get proper treatment for your previous bouts of BV, or you’re prone to having BV for some unknown reason. Treating BV pretty much only takes antibiotics and restoring your vagina’s normal pH balance.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection and is widespread among females between the ages of 15-and 44 years old.
There’s no apparent cause for this condition, but several factors can cause you to have BV.
Good thing it can be easily treated.
The bad news is that most women who have had BV most likely experience it again.
But, before you accuse your boyfriend of cheating, find out more about BV and why you keep getting it again.
How can you get BV?
Good bacteria like lactobacilli typically live in your vagina, maintaining its pH level and keeping it healthy and balanced.
You can develop bacterial vaginosis due to some factors that cause anaerobic or the “bad” bacteria in your vagina to outgrow the “good” bacteria.
Typically, a healthy number of lactobacilli and anaerobic bacteria maintains your vagina’s pH level between 3.8 and 4.5, making it slightly acidic.
When anaerobic bacteria overgrow, your vagina’s pH level increases and become less acidic.
This makes you at risk of vaginal yeast and bacterial infection and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like trichomoniasis (trich).
Are you at risk of BV?
The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is unknown.
Anybody who owns a vagina is at risk of developing the condition even if you have not yet had sex, although this is rare.
Remember that anything that can upset or increase your vagina’s pH level can put you at risk of developing bacterial vaginosis and other vaginal infections.
You’re more at risk of getting BV if you:
- Are a black woman or African American
- Don’t use condoms or dental dams when having sex
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Use douches or other vaginal washes or deodorants
- Are sexually active and have multiple partners
- Have a new sex partner
- Have sex with women
- Are pregnant
- Use of scented soaps, feminine wash, tampons, and sanitary pads
- Use strong detergents in washing your underwear
- Wear tight non-breathable clothing
- Bathe with perfumed bubble baths
6 factors that can throw off your vaginal pH levels
When you have a higher pH level, the anaerobic or “bad” bacteria in your vagina can multiply by 100 to 1000 times, killing the “good” bacteria in your vagina.
This puts you at high risk of infections like bacterial vaginosis.
Below are the most common factors that can throw off your vagina’s pH balance:
1. Unprotected sex
When you engage in unprotected penetrative sex with your man, you’re likely to throw off your vaginal pH because his semen is naturally alkaline (not acidic).
Semen can raise your vagina’s pH level and encourage the growth of certain bacteria.
Rinsing your vagina with a cleansing solution can upset its natural environment and wash away the beneficial bacteria that prevent vaginal infections.
3. Menstrual Periods
Blood has higher pH than your vagina.
When blood flows through your vagina during menstruation and sits in your tampon or sanitary pad, it can raise your vagina’s pH level.
When you enter the menopausal stage, your body will produce lesser estrogen, which may cause your vaginal pH to increase.
Antibiotic drugs are effective in fighting harmful bacteria in your vagina. But, it can also kill the beneficial ones that maintain your normal vaginal flora.
Some lubricants have higher pH levels, raising your vagina’s pH levels.
Why do I keep getting BV?
Know that you’re not alone if you experience getting BV repeatedly. It usually takes 3 episodes of this disastrous condition within 12 months to diagnose it as a recurring condition.
Please note that BV isn’t an STI, and it has more to do with factors that put you at risk of getting BV than your partner.
Many women experience recurrence of BV, and It’s still unclear to doctors why this happens again and again.
Possible reasons could be the following:
- You were inadequately treated or were never completely cured on your initial treatment.
- Due to some reasons, you’ve developed medication resistance to a previous BV treatment.
- You were exposed to factors that cause imbalances in your normal vaginal flora, like using douches, strongly scented vaginal products, and washes.
- You are prone to vaginal bacterial imbalance for some unknown reasons.
Is my boyfriend giving me BV?
Before you blame your male partner for cheating, it isn’t a dead-on accusation you can easily throw at them. Only a few studies show that men can spread BV to women.
However, if you have a female partner, you two better get checked for BV and get treated.
If you’re still in doubt, it’s better to talk about the issue with your partner.
Your man can’t get BV, but he can carry BV-causing bacteria and transfer it to you, especially when you two engage in unprotected sex.
Men are more likely to carry BV-causing bacteria if they previously suffered from nongonococcal urethritis.
When left untreated, your BV may put you at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.
It may also cause you to develop a pelvic inflammatory disease and fertility and pregnancy complications.
What are the symptoms of BV?
Most women do not notice any signs or symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. But you could still experience the following if you have BV:
- An increased amount of “greyish-white” vaginal discharge with a thin and watery consistency
- A strong fishy smell of vaginal discharge, especially after sex
- An unpleasant odor in your vagina
- Pain, itching, or burning in your vagina
- Burning sensation when peeing
- Itching around the opening of your vagina
You may interchangeably tell symptoms of BV with a vaginal yeast infection.
Both conditions may give you similar symptoms. However, each requires different treatments.
It’s best to receive a diagnosis from a healthcare professional before treating yourself with any at-home remedies or over-the-counter medications.
Remember that BV can cause you to have a greyish—white, fishy-smelling, thin and watery vaginal discharge.
In contrast, yeast infection often causes a thick or creamy, clumpy, white, and odorless vaginal discharge.
How can I treat BV?
A mild case of BV will resolve on its own.
However, you must get checked and treated by your doctor when you notice signs and symptoms of BV.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe you take antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria causing BV. These drugs may come in pills, gel tablets, or cream.
This is one of the most effective treatments for BV, which can either be taken as an oral pill or applied to your vagina as a topical gel.
You must follow your doctor’s prescription for taking the drug. The doses are specifically higher in treating recurring BV.
This is an antibiotic drug that comes in pill, cream, or ovule suppository. Obviously, the pill form can be taken orally.
At the same time, the cream and ovule suppository can be inserted into your vagina at bedtime.
Remember that clindamycin cream and ovule suppositories contain oil that can destroy latex condoms and diaphragms.
The effect could last up to 72 hours after inserting the ovule suppository and 5 days for the cream. Better avoid using a latex condom during this time.
It is also an antibiotic drug taken as an oral pill.
This will be prescribed if you develop adverse side effects to metronidazole and clindamycin.
This is an antibiotic for single-dose treatment.
It is much more expensive compared to other treatments. This is your best option if you want a one-time treatment for your BV.
This type of antibiotic is in the form of granules that you can sprinkle when you’re eating soft foods like unsweetened applesauce, pudding, or yogurt.
You can consume the food with the medicine within 30 minutes, be careful not to chew on the granules.
How can I restore my vaginal pH balance?
In addition to antibiotics, your doctor may give you the following advice to effectively restore the natural pH balance of your vagina.
1. Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotics help regulate your gut health to keep your vagina’s pH balanced and fight infection.
Lactobacilli, or the “good” bacteria, regulate your vagina’s flora keeping it naturally acidic and away from unwanted pathogens like yeast or harmful bacteria.
Eating a well-balanced diet high in fiber will help you maintain and restore your vagina’s normal pH balance.
Taking probiotic supplements and eating fermented foods may help increase the number of lactobacilli in your vagina:
Probiotic fermented foods include the following:
- Fermented tea like kombucha
- Sourdough bread
- Miso soup
2. Take garlic tablets
Garlic is packed with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Studies have shown that taking garlic supplements or tablets can help with vaginal yeast infection and BV.
Remember that eating garlic as part of your diet is generally safe but should not be used directly in or around your vagina.
Before taking garlic supplements, check first with your doctor as these may cause digestive side effects and could interact with some specific medications.
3. Use boric acid suppositories
These capsules contain an active ingredient called boric acid.
It has probiotics and vitamin C & E antioxidants to effectively restore your vaginal pH balance and treat recurring vaginal infections.
4. Learn to de-stress
You probably know that stress can affect your overall health, which can also affect the acid-base balance in your vagina.
Managing stress is very helpful in restoring and maintaining a healthy vagina.
You can manage your stress by doing the following:
- Exercise. Doing a simple physical activity like yoga and tai chi is very helpful.
- Deep breathing exercise for 5 minutes.
- Do what you love, like your hobbies or other fun activities
- Listen to music or play an instrument
- Get enough sleep
- Limit your alcohol intake and don’t do drugs
- Stop smoking
- Eat a balanced diet
5. Quit smoking
Research has shown that smokers are more prone to developing BV because they have a lesser number or population of lactobacilli, the “good” bacteria in their vaginas.
You can talk to a healthcare professional about getting support or starting a plan that would help you stop smoking.
6. Avoid douching and using other fragranced vaginal products
Never attempt to clean your vagina with a douching solution or perfumed vaginal washes or deodorants when you start to smell something unusual in your vagina.
Simply because the vagina cleans itself, it’s natural to have a distinct odor in your vagina.
Fragranced vaginal washes, tampons, or sanitary pads can disrupt your vagina’s normal pH balance and invite infections.
Cleansing your vagina with warm water and fragrance-free soap or washes is enough.
7. Wear a breathable cotton underwear
Wearing breathable cotton underwear is just one thing in keeping your vagina healthy and balanced.
You also have to change it regularly to prevent moisture and irritation.
Always use a hypoallergenic detergent in washing your underwear, and consider not wearing one at night to prevent moisture build-up.
8. Use a protective barrier when having sex
Always use a condom when engaging in penetrative sex with your man to avoid contact with his semen which can gradually increase your vagina’s pH level.
Using dental dams and finger cots is also advised to prevent bacteria from getting into your vagina.
BV can affect any woman. If you experience it coming back after treatment, it’s worth a try to change your diet and lifestyle.
You can add more probiotics to your meals and eat fiber-rich foods to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria.
Keep your vagina free from moisture by switching to breathable cotton panties and avoiding douching and scented vaginal products. Using boric acid suppositories is also worth a shot!