First thing’s first: healthy vaginas are supposed to have bacteria in them.
It’s only when changes in the balance of the different kinds of bacteria that can lead to bacterial vaginosis, or BV. This sometimes itchy, often annoying, uncomfortable, and unwanted imbalance (not infection) usually occurs when a strain of bad bacteria called Gardnerella vaginalis outnumbers the strain of good bacteria, known as Lactobacillus, making your vagina’s normal pH levels shift. Yeast infections on the other hand, are caused by an overgrowth of fungus called candida albicans, which is not a strain of bacteria, but rather yeast, and are an entirely different force to be reckoned with.
Normal vaginal pH is anywhere between 3.5 to 4.5 and if those levels rise for any reason, it means there’s not enough Lactobacillus to fight the less friendly bacteria. This occurrence is super common because it can be caused by your diet, tight or synthetic clothing, vaginal sex, harsh or fragranced soaps and douches, IUDs (intrauterine device for birth control), antibiotics, multiple and/or new sexual partners, smoking cigarettes...the list goes on.
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While the vagina is it’s own self-regulating machine (meaning it doesn't need to be "cleaned"), bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection for those aged 15-44. According to the CDC, over 30% of people with vagina’s have dealt with BV, but that number is probably much higher because many don’t even experience symptoms, or have normalized any discomfort often associated with bacterial vaginosis.
What Are Common Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
The main symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis are often cited are excessive or thin, cloudy, bloody, white, yellow, or grayish-white discharge, scents that you may not be used to (people often report a “fishy” smell), and, although less common, itching, redness, and pain during vaginal penetration or urination.
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Why is Bacterial Vaginosis So Difficult to Treat?
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and have seen multiple doctors for multiple flare-ups with multiple antibiotic prescriptions without any permanent solutions, you’re not alone. Prescribed antibiotics and over-the-counter treatments for Bacterial Vaginosis may temporarily relieve symptoms, but these OTC medicines are still directed toward the alleviation of symptoms by killing off all the “bad” bacteria in the hopes of restoring your vaginal pH balance.
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Unfortunately, this leads to low efficacy and high recurrence rates because common OTC antibiotics fail to solve the actual issue: what threw the pH balance off in the first place? Scientists are still working on understanding all of the causes, but it’s important to remember that our genitalia are a self-regulating, self-"cleaning" ecosystem; the less you disrupt the natural balance, the better off you’ll be.
What Can I Do to Treat & Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?
We recommend examining your current diet, incorporating probiotic rich food throughout the day and taking a natural probiotic supplement, and trying any one of our signature products for both immediate relief and restoring your vaginal flora. All natural and organic, each product is formulated with ingredients with antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral properties shown in clinical studies.
The Salve has a coconut oil base, a known microbial, with Tea Tree, Echinacea, Goldenseal, and Echinacea — a combination of plant power that works with your body to address symptoms of discomfort. A pea-size amount applied topically can provide immediate cooling comfort for some of the irritation. When used regularly, the Salve moisturizes and protects your skin's natural moisture barrier and can help prevent irritation from tight clothing, exercise, or sex.
Speaking of sex...it’s also important to note that BV is NOT a sexually transmitted disease or infection, but it can increase the risk of getting one because your vagina’s natural safeguards are weakened. Take note that BV is what doctors call “sexually associated,” meaning it can flare up due to sex, when your vagina comes in contact with different surfaces and fluids.
If you want a better understanding of bacterial vaginosis, we’ve picked three worthwhile reads (plus a fun bonus video!) that dig deep, cite their sources, and leave you feeling like you might finally have a grasp on what’s going on—and what you can do about it.
A Comprehensive Overview: Bacterial Vaginosis Biofilms
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the leading vaginal disorder in women.
- The low efficacy of antibiotics in preventing recurrences is thought to be due to their inability to fully eradicate BV vaginal biofilms-associated bacteria.
- Current approved therapies are not sufficient to deal with this multi-species biofilm-related vaginal disorder.
A Synthesis of Literature: The Cause, Prevalance & Implications of BV
- BV prevalence can be as high as 50–60% in high-risk populations.
- Five studies have reported high prevalence of BV estimates (~25 to ~50 %) among women who sleep with women.
- Bad personal hygiene behaviors, such as vaginal douching and washing are consistently associated with BV.
A Must Read: An Owner's Guide To Vaginal Care
- Vaginal infections are commonly associated with what can be called “excessive American hygiene.”
- Your vagina is a self-regulating, self-cleaning, resilient, yet delicate ecosystem and the less you disrupt the natural balance, the better off you’ll be.
BONUS VIDEO: Vagina Dispatches
Not to be missed, this four part video series seeks to improve your general genital understanding. While this piece isn’t specifically concerned with BV, it provides a good overview, covering everything from periods to orgasms, the series explores what we know and what we don’t—and why. From: The Guardian, 2016.
- Most people can’t even name all the parts of the Vagina
- There are huge gaps in how comfortable different generations are with these topics
3 Must Reads on Bacterial Vaginosis
What You Should Know About Yeast Infections
Learn What Your Period Blood Is Telling You About Your Health
Decode Your Vaginal Discharge
A Comprehensive Guide to Probiotics to Help Balance Your Gut & Support Vaginal Health
We’re always learning, so please reach out with any articles, books, videos, or other sources we might have missed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.