Everyone’s body is different, so the things that lead to Bacterial Vaginosis for some people don’t always cause problems for others. But in general, anything that changes the chemical balance in your vagina can lead to BV.
Allergic reactions or sensitivity to different products, materials, or activities can also cause vaginitis. Here are a few ways to keep your vulva and vagina healthy:
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products: Don’t use scented tampons and pads, vaginal deodorants, and perfumed “feminine hygiene” products. If you’re worried about the way your vagina smells, your doctor can let you know if it’s normal or not.
- Stop using any perfumed bath products: Products like soap or bubble bath, laundry products, and scented or colored toilet paper can irritate your skin.
- Don’t douche: Douching can disrupt your vagina’s natural balance and if you already have an infection, douching can make it worse. Vaginas are self-cleaning, so you don’t need to clean the inside of your vagina. Washing your vulva with mild, unscented soap or just plain water and immediately drying yourself after washing is the healthiest way to clean your genitals. Bacterial Vaginosis has nothing to do with how clean you are, so bathing or douching won’t cure vaginitis.
- Keep your Genital Area Dry: Bacterial Vaginosis develops more quickly when your vulva is moist, so keep your genital area as dry as possible. Don’t sit around in a wet bathing suit or damp clothes, and don’t wear pants that are uncomfortably tight.
- Wear cotton or cotton-crotch underwear: Natural fabrics like cotton breathe better and are less likely to hold moisture, making it more difficult for smell-producing bacteria to build up. Keep in mind, it is also important to change your underwear daily.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing: Tight-fitting clothing, including thongs, can collect fecal matter that can reach the vagina and cause infections and odors.
- Menstrual Products: Sanitary napkins, tampons, and pantyliners are disposable feminine hygiene products and should be changed every 4-8 hours. Menstrual cups, cloth menstrual pads, period panties, and sponges are reusable feminine hygiene which must be washed carefully according to their instructions.
- Wipe from front to back: Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps keep bacteria around the anus from getting into the vagina or urethra and causing an infection. If a finger, sex toy, or penis goes into your butt, wash it carefully before it touches your vagina (or use a new condom over it).
- Condoms & Contraceptive Devices: The use of a condom prevents contact between semen and vaginal fluids which can disrupt the vaginal pH and trigger odors. In addition, Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth and cause irritation. Stop using them or try a different brand if you have a reaction. If you’re allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane, polyisoprene, or nitrile condoms (they’re made from soft plastics and are latex-free).
- Wash your genital area before and after intercourse: Sex introduces bacteria, as well as foreign substances like lubrication and spermicide from condoms. Wash before and after sex to help maintain natural bacteria levels.
- Get to know your genitals: Look at your vulva with a mirror, and pay attention to your regular smells and vaginal discharge. It’s normal for discharge to change a little bit throughout your menstrual cycle. But knowing your body well is the best way to tell if something’s wrong, so you can get treatment as soon as possible if you need it.
- Consider a vaginal pH regulator product: Over-the-counter (OTC) products, such as GYNALAC, may be helpful for restoring your vagina’s natural pH. If you try one and the odor remains or grows worse, make an appointment with your doctor. You might need to see your doctor for another treatable infection.