Your vagina is riddled with bacteria, but don’t worry—most of them are harmless and fall into a category called lactobacilli, also known as the “good” kind of bacteria.
The vagina also plays host to the “bad” kind, called anaerobes, and sometimes the anaerobes get too plentiful and throw off the balance, creating a situation called bacterial vaginosis (1).
Bacterial vaginosis is a form of vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina.
Although not a sexually transmitted disease in and of itself, the condition does make contracting an STD easier so knowing how to get rid of bacterial vaginosis is important for anyone who plans on being sexually active.
Vaginosis while pregnant can also cause infants to be born premature or underweight, so pregnant women in particular have an interest in a bacterial vaginosis cure.
The good news is that the condition is treatable and there are various bacterial vaginosis (or “BV”) home remedies that can be employed alongside medical options.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
As mentioned, bacterial vaginosis occurs when the anaerobe bacteria in the vagina multiply to the point where they disrupt the normally lactobacilli-dominated environment. This usually happens because something has caused lactobacilli levels to drop. It’s a trigger that can play out across similar overgrowth disorders that can appear in other places, such as the intestines or the mouth. However, the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is unknown and nor is it clear just how low lactobacilli levels need to be in order for an anaerobe surge to develop. What is known is that certain activities can increase the likelihood of developing BV, including:
- Vaginal douching;
- Unprotected intercourse;
- Intercourse with a new partner or multiple partners;
- Using antibiotics; and
- Using any vaginally delivered medications.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
The good news is that around 50 to 75% of women with BV don’t develop symptoms, sparing them from various forms of discomfort. The bad news is that these individuals still have the associated pregnancy and STD risks that BV can bring, so it’s not a perfect situation.
Among those who do experience bacterial vaginosis symptoms (2), the most common is a vaginal discharge. This discharge will be thin, dull gray or white, and can sometimes appear foamy. It will also have a fish-like odor that intensifies during menstruation or intercourse as blood or semen interact with the chemicals the bacteria are giving off.
Bacterial vaginosis can result in itching and irritation along with a painful or burning sensation when urinating. It can also cause pain during intercourse and in some cases even light bleeding or spotting. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes. This causes a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease and can potentially lead to infertility.
How to Get Rid of Bacterial Vaginosis
There are numerous home treatments for bacterial vaginosis that can be applied in concert with conventional medical treatment. It is important when using any BV home remedy that you do not do so at the expense of any doctor-prescribed medication. The good news is that natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis and medical treatments are not mutually exclusive, so you can use them both at the same time without incident. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to get rid of a vaginal bacterial infection.
Hydrogen Peroxide for BV
This is one of the more reliable methods for how to treat BV at home. Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant that can be applied to the vagina to help kill any bacteria that have set up shop. Since hydrogen peroxide is quite strong and because you are applying it to a sensitive area, it’s important to dilute the substance first. To create this natural treatment for bacterial vaginosis, use a solution of equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide then soak a tampon in the resulting mixture. Insert the tampon and leave it in place for 20 to 30 minutes before removing.
Apple Cider Vinegar for BV
Using apple cider vinegar for bacterial vaginosis lets you throw off or restore the pH balance of the vaginal environment.
Apple cider vinegar is another liquid with purported antiseptic behavior. Using apple cider vinegar for bacterial vaginosis lets you throw off or restore the pH balance of the vaginal environment, to make it more inhospitable to anaerobes. The usual recommendation when making this natural cure for bacterial vaginosis is to use a solution of two cups of water and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, then apply it as a douche once per day. Alternatively, you can add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to a bath and soak in it for 30 minutes.
Coconut Oil for BV
Coconut oil can be used preventatively or as a direct treatment option.
Another method for how to cure BV at home is to use coconut oil. Less antiseptic and more antibacterial, coconut oil can be used preventatively or as a direct treatment option. Soak a tampon in coconut oil until it becomes saturated, then insert into the vagina and leave for about two hours. Rinse the area after removal and repeat each day until symptoms go away.
Yogurt for BV
Yogurt is a probiotic and can help reintroduce lactobacilli to the vagina.
Yet another method for how to get rid of BV naturally is to use yogurt. Yogurt is a probiotic and can help reintroduce lactobacilli to the vagina. However, whether this works as a treatment is still unclear since the type of lactobacilli in any given yogurt product is not necessarily the same type of lactobacilli that might be in your vagina. Additionally, there is no evidence that the bacteria delivered through a probiotic even successfully sticks around and, even if it did, that the amount of bacteria in a probiotic product would be enough to affect the vaginal population in any meaningful way. Still, if you wish to apply yogurt, soak a tampon in the brand of your choice for 10 minutes then insert into the vagina for two hours. Rinse when done and repeat daily.
A cold compress can help soothe the site and lessen the pain for a short period.
One of the main home remedies for vaginitis is a cold compress. Should you experience vaginal inflammation or irritation, a cold compress can help soothe the site and lessen the pain for a short period.
When to See a Doctor
It takes about three days to a week for antibiotics to treat a case of bacterial vaginosis. During this time, you should feel free to attempt any of the above natural BV remedies. In addition to knowing how to get rid of bacterial vaginosis, it’s important to know when it might be time to seek a reevaluation. There are certain situations where it’s highly advisable to speak with your doctor in order to make sure there are no extra complications going on, including the following:
- You have a fever alongside vaginal discharge.
- You have had vaginal infections before, but the discharge this time seems different or new.
- You have recently had sex with new or multiple partners; some STDs have symptoms similar to BV.