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Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis - Proactive Self-Care Does Make a Difference

Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis - Proactive Self-Care Does Make a Difference

People used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is still true, particularly when applied to dealing with infections. Since BV is so difficult to cure and likely to return even after treatment, women need to pay attention to basic ways to prevent any occurrence of BV.


Practical Ways to Prevent BV


None of these suggestions is difficult or even expensive. For the most part, it’s simply becoming aware of conditions in which BV thrives and making other choices. 


When women become proactive about their health, they are in control over their bodies and not depending on drugs or doctors to solve an infection problem. Better to avoid infection than deal with curing it.


This isn’t to suggest that infection prevention is easy, however a few basic precautions go a long way to protecting a woman from BV or from a reoccurrence of BV.


·     Reduce or eliminate douching. Even liquids made for douche are strong enough to upset the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria.


·     Douching can actually spread BV. A strong douche can cause newly forming BV to spread further u the reproductive tract than it otherwise would.


·     Reduce potential for E.coli bacteria from the rectum to enter the vagina by wiping from front to back after bowel movements.


·     Scented toilet paper may leave a nice smell in the bathroom, but the chemicals in the scent can irritate the vaginal area.


·     Personal hygiene products with scents of fruits or flowers are advertised as sexy but the perfume within the product can be too harsh for the vaginal area.


·     Clean up after sex. Forget the lingering moment and think about how the moisture and semen are a breeding ground for bacteria. Wash gently with an antibacterial cleanser, which is made for use in the vaginal area, not just whatever soap is handy.


·     The classic white cotton panties may not be a chic as a lace thong but they are less likely to support formation of bacteria. Cotton is a natural fiber that absorbs moisture and allows for air circulation. At least keep several pairs for routine wear.


·     Women who use diaphragms or cervical caps must wash these carefully, rinse and dry before re-use. These devices not only prevent pregnancy but the snug fit creates a bacteria nursery if not properly cleaned before use.


·     Always practice safe sex. The use of condoms is important to reduce spread of STD’s or other infections between partners.


Stay Dry, Stay Healthy


Chances are as a child you thought it odd that your mother or grandmother insisted that you “get out of those wet clothes”. Whether you just came in from the swimming pool or got caught in a rainstorm, the prevailing logic was to change out of all clothes (including undergarments) and put on dry clothes.


While staying in wet clothes may not cause you to “catch your death of cold,” as Grandmother warned, it can contribute to an ugly outbreak of Bacterial Vaginosis. 


Think about it, how many times do you come out of the pool and linger on the patio sunbathing in a wet swimsuit? Or do you spend the entire afternoon at the lakefront, diving into the cool water then getting back on the dock for a lemonade break?  After all, why dry off and get dressed when you might want to get back into the water?


The fact is, it’s better to change into clean dry clothes, rinse out the swim suit and let it dry before putting it on again.  Even the best-cleaned pool is still a place that bacteria can grow.


In a lake, it’s totally open season for BV infection and so many other infections.  Swimming or tubing in a lake or stream may seem like harmless fun, but a few days later when the BV symptoms start, the fun is definitely over.


If you are a regular for swimming, water skiing, diving or snorkeling, bring two or three swimsuits and extra dry towels to change rather than let your wet swimsuit become a hotbed for infection.  A little extra laundry is much easier to manage than BV.


Towels are another problem that is often overlooked. This is challenging because even hotels put out signs asking that guests re-use towels to save water.

Being environmentally friendly is important, yet you also have to protect the vaginal environment, which does not need repeated infection. Reuse of a towel that has already been damp is another mistake that women make. Bring a beach towel to sit on but use a fresh, clean towel to dry the body.


Women who have had repeated episodes of BV know the importance of drying the vaginal area before dressing in street clothes. Some women find that using the hair dryer on low is better for drying vulva area than creating new irritations to that delicate tissue by rubbing with a towel.


Your Mother Was Right – Always Wear Clean Underwear


Mother may have told you to always “wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident.”  She was thinking more of the kind of accident that leads to a trip to the emergency room since those hospital gowns have tendency to cover little. What she wasn’t thinking about is the accidental encounters with infection.


Wearing clean undergarments every day is vital to your vaginal health.  Don’t get lazy by falling out of bed at the last possible minute, then throwing on clothes to rush to work.


Just because underwear has no odor, does not mean that you can go two days on one pair.


If you are a last-minute dresser or if you want to wait until after work to take a long soak in the tub, you still need to change underwear. Make it a habit to put on clean panties either before going to bed at night or when getting dressed in the morning.


Perhaps that’s why there is now a line of women’s panties that have the days of the week printed on them, just like the ones you wore as a little girl. If that’s what it takes to make this a new habit, then do it.


Anytime you wear pantyhose or tights, make certain to wash these after every use. In fact, it’s better to avoid wearing these during an outbreak of BV. Pantyhose and tights literally encase you from legs to waist.


Even in colder weather, your body temperature warms when inside a building and that’s when this warm, secluded area becomes ideal for infection growth.  While it is fine to wear pantyhose or tights without panties, just treat them the same as you do panties and wash after every wear.


Sexy underwear tends to be alluring but not the best choice for keeping infection at a distance. Save the sexy items for the right place and time but wear the cotton panties other times, particularly if you have an outbreak of BV or just finished one. 


Cotton panties may not be sexy to your significant other, but neither is the fishy odor of BV.


Change Your Washing Habits


How do you wash your clothes?  Do you toss everything into one wash - shirts, sheets, undergarments and the rest? That’s a bad idea. Separating your clothes for different wash cycles, detergents and temperatures not only extends the useful life of clothing, but also lets you regulate the chemicals that affect your body.


For any woman who is prone to infection, a hypoallergenic laundry detergent is essential. Also choose one that is fragrance free. As nice as the spring breeze smell might be, a better way to get that fresh smell is by hanging your sheets and towels on the line to dry than by adding a version of chemical sunshine.


No need to over load on bleach. Wash bath towels, swim towel and wash cloths in fragrance free, hypoallergenic detergent at hot water setting then promptly place in dryer. Note the word promptly. Leaving wet towels to simmer in the washing machine before drying is one more breeding opportunity for bacteria.


Skip the Bubble Bath


No matter how much you enjoy a long soak in a warm bubble bath after a tough day at work, this is not the best option during or immediately after an outbreak of BV.


Sorry to burst the bubble on this one, but the chemicals in bubble bath can be too harsh for an already irritable vagina.  If the BV outbreak is in full swing, you will feel the stinging and get out of the tub fast.


Unfortunately, if the BV infection is just starting up and has yet to produce major symptoms, that long tub bath simply gives it encouragement.


Make certain that the soap used for your body is a natural soap without added fragrances.  Any soap that is recommended for the delicate skin of infants is a good choice.


Other options are the basic soaps like Ivory™ soap from the grocery store or organic soaps from the health food store.


Sharing Isn’t a Virtue with BV


Since kindergarten you have been taught to share with others. Without compromising this gracious behavior, at times sharing leads to more problems than benefits.


For a couple, bath towel sharing can occur without any conscious thought. The first person to shower grabs the handy towel, uses it, and then replaces it on the rack.


If the next person takes a shower later after that towel is dry, it might be mistaken as clean and be used again.


Just because you share a bed and other intimate moments, don’t share bath towels or washcloths.


If it won’t interfere with the color scheme, get bath towel sets in two colors - one for you and one for your partner.


That’s the easy way to know which towel is yours.  But if that does not work for you, then choose different places for your towels: yours on the towel rack and his on draped over the shower rod. Be consistent with the towel location.


When women are experiencing a BV outbreak, it is best not to wipe the vulva with a bath towel as the typical clothes washer is not a sterile machine. Another option is to use disposable soft cloths or buy a set of cheap small washcloths that are only used for this purpose.


Remember, no sharing. Why pass around an infection that is already meddling with intimacy?

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