BV can recur while dating the same partner – here’s why

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Recurrence is quite common, so know that you are not alone.

But experts aren’t sure exactly why some people get bacterial vaginosis (BV) over and over again.

It may have little to do with who you are dating and rather it may be because treatment has failed to eliminate a previous BV attack or new resistance to a particular treatment method.

Lifestyle factors, such as how you wash your genital area, can also have an impact.

No one is sure.

Douching, smoking, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) have been associated with an increased risk of BV, as has exposure to a new sexual partner.

So if you check any of these boxes, it could explain the recurrence.

But it’s also possible that an initial infection was never completely cured or that you developed resistance to previous treatment.

A study of people treated with a typical BV antibiotic found that less than a quarter (23%) were completely cured.

There is even a potential link between recidivism and staying with the same partner.

Research has shown that people who had the same sexual partner before and after BV treatment were two to three times more likely to have recurrent infection.

It’s hard to tell, because BV can go away in a few days on its own.

But some people may need treatment for a week (or more) to get rid of the infection.

Half of people with BV have no symptoms.

But if you notice a vaginal discharge with a strong odor or an itchy or burning sensation when you urinate, you can try the following:

  • Take showers, instead of baths, using unscented soap and water to wash your outer genital area.
  • Avoid douching or using deodorants.
  • Avoid strong detergents when washing your underwear.

Remember, if the infection persists, it is better to see a doctor rather than trying to relieve the symptoms at home. You may need antibiotics.

If your sex partner has a penis, they usually don’t need treatment.

But BV can be transferred between people with vaginas, which means you both may need treatment.

Seek medical advice if you are concerned.

More research is needed on BV, so it’s hard to say for sure how to prevent it from coming back.

But there are a few things that can help lower your risk:

  • When washing your genitals, use regular soap instead of scented products. Showers can be better than baths.
  • Avoid douching –it can alter the natural bacterial balance in your vagina.
  • When having vaginal sex, use condoms or some other barrier method and make sure all sex toys are clean before use.
  • Choose light, breathable underwear. Cotton is often a good choice for fabric because it helps remove moisture that bacteria love.
  • Maintaining a slightly acidic vaginal pH with lactic acid gel can help stop the growth of bacteria that can lead to BV.

In short, the exact cause of BV is unknown.

But changes in the balance of vaginal bacteria that lead to an overload of a certain bacteria are believed to lead to infection.

Doctors know that douches and other irritating vaginal products can affect the natural bacterial balance, so they advise against their use.

But research has shown that you have an increased risk of BV if:

Antibiotics are the recommended treatment for BV. These can come in the form of pills, gels or creams.

The infection will often go away within a few days, but you will usually be told to take the treatment for a week.

If you develop BV more than twice in 6 months, you may be given longer-term antibiotic treatment.

Although BV infections are often mild and some cases resolve on their own, it is always a good idea to see a healthcare professional if you notice any symptoms.

This is especially true if you are pregnant, as there is a small risk that the infection will cause complications.

A healthcare professional will be able to examine your vagina and test for any fluid or discharge.

And if your BV comes back, they can help you identify triggers and adjust antibiotic treatment.

More research is needed to see exactly what causes BV and why some people seem to have it over and over again.

If you fall into this category, be aware that there are treatments available and there are many healthcare professionals who can help.

Most importantly, recognize that it is not an STI and may have nothing to do with your sexual partner.


Lauren Sharkey is a UK-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When not trying to figure out a way to banish migraines, she can be found finding the answers to your health questions that lurk in your face. She has also written a book presenting young activists around the world and is building a community of these resistance fighters. Catch her Twitter.



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