How do I get rid of bacterial vaginosis?

On my last visit to my GYN, my Pap smear was abnormal. I was treated for a yeast infection, which I didn’t think I had, and bacterial vaginosis. The next Pap test was normal. I am on birth control so my husband doesn’t “pull out.” Even though I was treated, the BV came back pretty quickly. I shower once a day and in the summer twice a day with Dove only. Can my husband be re-infecting me and/or does he also needs to be treated for bacteria?

The Answer:

Your question brings up two important issues. The first is what Pap tests are done for, and what they can incidentally (but not reliably) do. Even though Pap tests are designed to detect abnormalities in your cervix, the pathologists can sometimes also see signs of infection. At the time of the initial diagnosis, did you have symptoms of a yeast infection (usually itching and a cottage-cheesy discharge) and/or vaginosis (usually a foul odor and increased discharge that may be white, yellow or grey)? Pap “detection” of infections isn’t always accurate, so many doctors will follow up those findings with better tests.

The second issue is just how commonly bacterial vaginosis, or BV, recurs. If you did have BV, one round of antibiotics doesn’t always cure it–30 to 50 percent of women will have another episode of BV within a few months. It doesn’t mean your husband has to “pull out,” and it DOESN’T mean that you’re not keeping yourself clean. (And YAY for Dove, by the way, it’s my favorite soap for the vulva!) It also doesn’t mean that your husband is re-infecting you. BV is an overgrowth of bacteria that are normally found in the vagina, not something that you get from him. So he doesn’t need to be treated: BV likes the vagina and doesn’t care for the penis.

When I have patients with a “rebound” BV infection, I give them either a different antibiotic, or the same antibiotic given in a different way (if they used a vaginal gel the first time, I’ll try pills next). For the few patients who continually get BV, I’ll put them on maintenance therapy, using the vaginal gel once a week for several months to see if that does the trick.

Have any of you had a hard time banishing BV?

Some Comments Here:

” I have a friend that has been getting vaginosis infections almost non-stop since November 2006. She jokes around and she tells me that was Santa Claus early Christmas present. I guess Santa wanted to punish her for being a bad girl that year.:) She said that she had a little break from infections sometimes on August 2007 and the infection came back on October, but every since then the infection comes back every couple of months. She has her fingers crossed because she hasn’t had an infection since April. She wishes she could turn back the clock and erase that year(2006) completely from her life because since then everything went down to hell.”

” I like most of you also get BV very frequently I am currently being treated for another one. I have even decided to change GYN because I felt like the last one was not helping me at all. I hope that with this new medication things will get better. I just want to find a treatment that will diminish all of the BV. It is very uncomfortable and unclean feeling. This is a great post. I didn’t think there were so many women out there with this same problem.  ”

” As a RN previously working in an ob clinic, we recommend for women to eat plain yogurt frequently, helps with lactobacillius naturally, which helps prevent bv and yeast infections. secondly, do not douche, ever, bad for the “gina”. also give yourself a break from tampons, at least for 2 months if possible..rinse the maleness out after sexual relations, bacteria loves this environment. drink plenty of water..following these simple guidelines have kept myself from EVER getting bv..”

” My sister says since BV is a ph balance problem she douches with a water/ peroxide solution, maybe 70/30 peroxide/water and it seems to do the trick. I always have a problem with BV when I enter a new relationship(thank God that’s only every 4 years or so) but I don’t like taking a continuous round of antibiotics. I haven’t had the chance to try the solution my sister recommended yet, though. ”