In June I posted on Instagram what you should NOT be putting near your vulva and vagina – check back on that post if you’re a new follower.
In the last week I’ve had a number of conversations with people experiencing Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), this prompted me to do a follow-up post relating to vaginal health.
Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is a disturbance in the vaginal microbiome. Unlike the gut, which has a very diverse range of bacteria strains, the vagina has very few – Lactobacillus being the most common. A depletion of Lactobacillus can result in BV, symptoms may include a fishy odour and grey discharge.
Some of the various factors which may disturb the vaginal microbiome include
- The pH of sperm is more alkaline with the vagina being more acidic, this can lead to a change of the vagina pH and disturb bacteria balance
- Oral sex exchanges a greater diversity of bacteria to an area that only has few strains of bacteria
- Using fingers, particularly if unclean (or recently cleaned with antibacterial soaps)
- Sharing of toys
- Certain type of lubricants – coconut oil can flare up BV
- Diet – low intake of particular nutrients and high intake of fat and sugar
For some of the reasons mentioned above, lesbian/pansexual/bisexual women or other vulva owners attracted to other vulvas, tend to have higher incidences of BV.
This doesn’t mean you need to stop all of the above activities! But if you’re having recurrent BV infections, you may want to look into what could be contributing rather than going on antibiotics each time.
What you can do
- Avoid soaps in the vulva area – these can be harsh, disturb bacteria, pH and strip natural oils. There are some pH balanced herbal washes that are recommended including Kolorex
- Wear natural organic cotton or bamboo underwear or better yet – go undie free when you can and let your vulva get some air
- Wash hands (don’t use antimicrobial washes)
- Dental dams may be an option for oral if you’re concerned this could be contributing
- Look at lubricants that match the pH and osmolarity of the vagina. Look for lubricants which are pH balanced and not full of nasties (I’ll do a more detailed post on this at a later date)
- Avoid sharing toys or clean thoroughly between shares
- See a health care practitioner such as a Naturopath who can help identify what the contributing factors in your situation
- If using tampons or pads, ensure organic. Is using a menstrual cup, clean this in boiling water between cycles
- If not using condoms, urinate post-sex which will help to flush out sperm
- Eat a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables while limiting processed foods, refined sugars and trans fats
For some people – there may be an energetic reason that BV is flaring up, whether this is your body manifesting symptoms to give you a sign that it isn’t wanting to be intimate at this current time or with this particular person/s. It could be a deeper shame that is being drawn out. Or it may be another reason entirely.
I want to reduce the shame around sex, vulvas and vaginas (having to even censor these words on social media so I don’t get blocked is ridiculous). So I want to encourage others to speak up about your experiences, whether that’s to a friend, to a healthcare worker, a therapist or an online sex-positive group.