Do Condoms Help Prevent Recurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Having something going on in the vaginal area is never fun. It can range from a simple yeast infection to an STD. Using condoms can dramatically prevent the rate of contracting an STD from a partner while also preventing pregnancy when used correctly.

But what about when it isn’t an STD and it’s an infection, like bacterial vaginosis? Do condoms prevent or cause it? Can it help prevent relapse? First let’s take a look at what bacterial vaginosis is first.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

bacterial VaginosisBacterial vaginosis is one of the most common infections that occur in women ranging in ages from 15-44. It occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. [1] It is not considered an STD/STI however it is normally found in women that are sexually active.

Generally it’s seen when the woman changes partners or they have multiple partners. Because it has to do with the balance of bacteria in the vagina, having someone new can introduce new bacteria as well causing the infection.

Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) isn’t exactly a science. Because it’s not really known what the cause is, preventing it becomes harder. The CDC recommends not having sex, limiting the number of partners you have and not douching [2] as ways to potentially prevent the infection, but again, it’s not a science.

How to Know if you Have Bacterial Vaginosis

Some of the ways to tell that you have BV is a thin white or gray vaginal discharge, pain, itching or burning in the vagina, a fish like odor, and potentially burning while urinating. [3] So pretty much the same symptoms you would have with either a UTI or a yeast infection.

So if you have these symptoms you may want to see a healthcare professional that will do an exam and take a sample of vaginal fluid to make the determination. While you can treat a yeast infection with over the counter medications, BV is different and needs antibiotics. [4]

If you think you may have BV you’ll want to see your doctor. One thing that you’ll want to look for, if you have had an infection before, if it looks differently than what you are used to.

Also if you are in a new relationship, then you’ll want to consider getting checked as well. Also if you have tried to treat for a yeast infection or UTI and the over the counter medications haven’t worked, you’ll want to try something else. [5]

Potential Complications of Having Bacterial Vaginosis

Some of the potential complication of having bacterial vaginosis are premature birth if you are currently pregnant. You are also more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections and also increases the chance of passing it on.

If you have a reproductive surgery it can also increase the likelihood of having an infection post-op. You can also contract pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as well and that can cause an increased risk of infertility.[5]

One consideration to make however if you do have bacterial vaginosis, is that having it does increase your risk of contracting an STD [6]. This is where condoms come in.

Does Condom Use Prevent or Increase Risk of Bacterial Vaginosis

Consistent condom use has been shows to significantly decrease the frequency of contracting BV. [7] This is significantly important because while you want to consider that having BV can increase your susceptibility to contracting other diseases, using condoms on a regular basis can help prevent that as well as recurrent BV.

So while some may like and prefer other forms of birth control over that of using a condom, if you have recurrent infections, using condoms and reduce the discomfort and the frequency of BV in the long run.

But, one must also consider this. Condoms can essentially bring about BV. You may however have a sensitivity to the material of the condom. So maybe you aren’t allergic to latex but you have a latex sensitivity, using that kind of condom could case a reaction/irritation to the vagina that leads to it becoming unbalanced.

So while that may seem like a catch-22, it’s not. There are multiple forms of condoms, and those that have a latex allergy/sensitivity can benefit from looking at all of the options that are available.

BV is treatable with medications, and it’s best to get it treated as soon as possible, but preventing them is important as well. Take care to use condoms while you are having sex especially if it’s with someone new or more than one person. Preventing it is by far better than having to treat it.

References:

  1. Bacterial Vaginosis. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
  2. See above #1
  3. See above #1
  4. Bacterial Vaginosis. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bacterial-vaginosis
  5. Bacterial Vaginosis: Symptoms and Causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352279
  6. Bacterial Vaginosis. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
  7. Condom use and its association with bacterial vaginosis and bacterial vaginosis-associated vaginal microflora. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17917605

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