This article is brought to you by Florajen Probiotics. In this edition of News for a Better You, the Florajen team discusses how Florajen Probiotics can help maintain vaginal wellness and lower risk of bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, occurring in 30% of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States. Linked to an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms that then can crowd out “healthier” vaginal bacteria, BV can increase a woman’s chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and developing pelvic inflammatory disease. BV can also be dangerous in pregnancy, potentially leading to premature birth and low birth weight in babies.
Often dealt with through antibiotics, BV, unfortunately, tends to return even after successful treatment. Indeed, research shows that at least 50% of women with BV experience a recurrence within 12 months. With antibiotic treatment (especially if it’s repeated), of course, can come other problems, too – like antibiotic-associated diarrhea, further gastrointestinal issues, and the potential for the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To avoid these things, it would be best if we could help prevent BV from happening in the first place and from coming back.
The following tips are not guaranteed to stave off BV, but they can help lower BV risks and they’re easy to incorporate into your life.
As mentioned above, BV is associated with an overgrowth of certain “bad” bacteria in the vagina that then crowd out more desirable bacteria, upsetting the natural proportions of microorganisms “down there” and leading to the itch, burn, pain, odor, and/or discharge that some people with BV experience. It makes sense, then, that helping to restore balance in the microbiome in your body may be able to help with BV. Indeed, studies have shown that several probiotics, including oral Lactobacillus acidophilus (which is included in Florajen Women probiotics) can play a role in maintaining vaginal pH and increasing vaginal lactobacilli for a more stable microbiome. How do oral probiotics help the vagina? They naturally make their way to the vaginal tract after excretion from your GI system when you have a bowel movement. For us health geeks, that’s pretty cool.
While some people can have BV and feel no symptoms, others experience:
- Burning during urination
- Itchiness, irritation, or pain around the vaginal opening
- Increased vaginal discharge that may be thin, white, or gray, sometimes with a fishy odor. Odor may be stronger after sex or menstruation.
Given these symptoms, BV can be confused with a yeast infection or even a urinary tract infection. To get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care, you’ll need to contact your doctor and follow his or her instructions regarding necessary testing and treatment.
To help prevent BV from coming back, we’ve already mentioned the potential benefit of probiotics with Lactobacillus acidophilus. Other useful tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health and Planned Parenthood include:
- Helping to keep your body’s microorganisms balanced by using only warm water to clean the outside of your vagina. Soap is not necessary and even mild soap can be irritating.
- Wiping front to back from vagina to anus after using the toilet.
- Keeping private parts cool and dry by wearing cotton or cotton-lined underwear. And, like your mother said, wearing clean undies each day.
- Changing out of a wet bathing suit or damp clothes promptly and not wearing pants that are uncomfortably tight.
- Avoiding douching. Douching upsets the balance of bacteria in your vagina. This may raise your risk of BV. It may also make it easier to get BV again after treatment.
- Not using scented tampons, pads, vaginal deodorants, or “feminine hygiene” products.
- Steering clear of perfumed bath products (like soap or bubble bath) and scented or colored toilet paper. They can irritate delicate skin.
- Changing tampons and pads every 4 to 8 hours during your period. Washing menstrual cups according to their instructions.
- Limiting your number of sex partners. Researchers think that risks of getting BV increase as a person’s number of sex partners increases. Bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted but sometimes a person’s body can react to another’s semen or natural genital yeast and bacteria, impacting the normal balance in the vagina.
- Washing any sex toys after each use and according to instructions.
- Choosing contraception carefully. Certain lubricants and contraceptives (especially spermicides) may cause irritation — stop using them or try a different brand if you have a reaction. If you’re allergic to latex, learn about other options when it comes to condoms.
BV is common and it’s not fully understood, yet, but we hope that the information in this blog can help keep your vagina healthier and more in balance – for greater comfort and wellness.
To learn more about the potential impacts of probiotics on vaginal health and for money-saving tips for buying over-the-counter health items (like probiotics, contraception and more), visit our other blogs, too.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Florajen product, know that Florajen is available at most pharmacies and health food stores. Use our locator to check your area for retailers and, when in-store, ask at the pharmacy counter because Florajen Probiotics are refrigerated for freshness and potency. To save time, we also recommend calling a location beforehand to confirm availability. If your favorite pharmacy doesn’t have Florajen at the moment, just ask and they can order it for you.