- Researchers have found that vaginal douching—with or without hydrogen peroxide—can disturb the balance of natural flora in the vaginal environment and cause an imbalance in pH levels.
- A study conducted by Verstraelen et al. (2012) concluded that hydrogen peroxide douches are not effective in treating bacterial vaginosis.
- Antibiotics can make your BV reoccur due to the same reason douches can worsen BV—their ability to kill both good and bad bacteria.
- If you experience symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, probiotics are a natural, effective treatment method.
- Is Hydrogen Peroxide an Effective Treatment Method for BV?
- What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
- What Is a Vaginal Douche?
- Clinically Proven Treatments for BV
- How To Prevent a Bacterial Vaginosis Infection
- Home Remedies for BV
- For a Happier V, Use Products You Can Trust
When you dive down the rabbit hole that is the internet, you can find blogs or articles that proclaim almost anything to be true. One thing you may have come across is using certain natural home remedies to treat common symptoms of vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and vaginal yeast infections. While some of these home remedies may be researched in clinical trials and found to be effective, others may just be hearsay.
At times, doing research on the internet can feel like navigating through a maze—take one step in the wrong direction and you might end up going in circles, or worse, getting more stuck than before. And when it comes to your vaginal wellness, there may be hundreds of potential moves you can make to address BV symptoms like fishy odor, discharge, and itchiness, but that doesn’t mean all of them will help you get where you want to be—to a healthier, happier V.
Is Hydrogen Peroxide an Effective Treatment Method for BV?
In order to maintain our vaginal health, we must choose safe, reliable treatment methods; it’s not worth putting ourselves at risk with one issue in order to mask another. One common practice that people with vaginas may use to treat uncomfortable bacterial infections is to douche with hydrogen peroxide. Let’s be clear: hydrogen peroxide douching is not a safe or efficacious treatment for bacterial vaginosis.
But if this treatment method doesn’t work, why is it so well known? Hydrogen peroxide is one of the compounds that lactobacillus probiotics produce as a natural defense against bad bacteria, so it may seem rational that douching with hydrogen peroxide can help treat BV. However, inserting hydrogen peroxide into your vagina is a practice that comes with risks that far outweigh any potential benefits.
To understand why some people douche with hydrogen peroxide and why it’s not recommended as a treatment regimen for genital tract infections, you need to understand what causes BV.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a very common type of vaginal infection caused by an imbalance of the healthy bacteria and harmful bacteria in your vagina. Your vaginal bacteria exist in a delicate balance, but when the balance is disrupted through risk factors like sexual activity or wearing wet swimsuits, genital tract infections may occur. Pregnant women and those in a sexual relationship with a female partner are also at a higher risk of developing BV.
BV is most common in reproductive-age women. Symptomatic women may experience discolored vaginal discharge that’s white to grayish in color (but smooth, not cottage cheese-like as is seen in yeast infections), an unusual vaginal odor, and a burning or itching sensation. However, around 84% of individuals with BV may show no signs or symptoms at all. (1)
How Does BV Occur?
Your body contains several types of bacteria, but the most important and abundant type of good bacteria is a lactic acid bacteria known as lactobacillus. Lactobacillus produces molecules like hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid, which keep the vaginal pH slightly acidic. This acidic pH prevents an overgrowth of bad bacteria from developing and causing an infection. However, if there is a lactobacillus deficiency in the vagina, then there may be less hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid in the vagina, which can raise the vaginal pH and allow bad anaerobic bacteria to grow.
Because lactobacillus is abundant in probiotic supplements, yogurt, and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, consuming these items can help rebalance your body’s bacterial levels. However, inserting these items into your vagina or douching with them is not a safe or recommended practice.
What Is a Vaginal Douche?
A vaginal douche is a kind of liquid solution which is pumped into the vagina to clean the vagina and its inner walls. Douches are usually sold in bags or pumps. Most of the douches available in stores and over the counter at pharmacies contain antiseptic solutions or fragrances. Although approximately 20% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 use vaginal douches, douching is not recommended by healthcare providers, since douching can increase your risk of developing a sexually transmitted infection or cause issues with fertility. (2)
Researchers have found that vaginal douching can disturb the balance of natural flora in the vaginal environment and cause an imbalance in pH levels. (3) Although vaginal douching is done to clean the vagina of bacteria, because it wipes out both healthy and harmful bacteria, it actually increases your risk of infection. A low count of healthy vaginal bacteria makes the vaginal environment more favorable for bacteria to grow in, which may lead to recurrent BV infections.
This means that instead of treating infections, douching can actually cause infections due to their antimicrobial properties. The liquid solution may also deliver the solution too deep into the vagina and spread the bad bacteria into the urinary tract, causing further irritation and infection.
What Is a Hydrogen Peroxide Douche?
A hydrogen peroxide douche is a vaginal douche solution composed of hydrogen peroxide and water. Hydrogen peroxide solutions are usually available at a 3% concentration. Because hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic, some people believe that a vaginal hydrogen peroxide douche can be used for the treatment of women with BV.
However, a recent study investigating whether hydrogen peroxide is an effective treatment regimen for BV concluded that hydrogen peroxide douches are not the best treatment option for bacterial vaginosis. (4) Researchers have concluded that antiseptic solutions may be effective for treating BV to some extent but that they are not as effective as other treatment methods, like oral antibiotic treatments prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Clinically Proven Treatments for BV
AIf hydrogen peroxide is not very useful for treating bacterial vaginosis, what is? Fortunately, there are some clinically researched BV treatments that are proven to help you achieve symptom relief.
Many healthcare providers would agree that antibiotic therapy is the first line treatment for bacterial vaginosis. (5)
Doctors usually recommend antibiotics such as oral metronidazole pills, clindamycin creams, or tinidazole tablets. However, antibiotics aren’t always the best choice for treating BV. Like douches, antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, which can make your BV infection reoccur after treatment.
Probiotics for Bacterial Vaginosis
Vaginal probiotics position themselves as the best possible option to treat the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis because they naturally create the molecule we have been talking about this whole time: hydrogen peroxide. When hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli are present in the vagina, they may inhibit the growth of bacteria, regulate pH, and displace pathogens, or bad bacteria, within the vagina so they don’t compete for prebiotics.
Happy V Probiotic
This is your foundation! Happy V’s probiotics for vaginal health are packed with six specific strains that introduce good bacteria to optimize the pH level of your vaginal flora.
How To Prevent a Bacterial Vaginosis Infection
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection experienced by women of reproductive age. (6) Around 30% of women will develop BV at some point in their lifetime, but a few thoughtful prevention measures can help you avoid getting this common infection.
To start, practice strong vaginal hygiene. Shower regularly, and rinse your vagina with water after having sex. Good vaginal health practices should also include:
- Taking probiotics. Regularly taking probiotics for women or eating probiotic-rich foods like kombucha or kefir can help increase your levels of good bacteria in your gut and vagina. Probiotics also help strengthen your immune system and improve your overall health. (7)
- Avoiding harsh chemical washes in your vagina. The genital area is extremely sensitive, and the use of any harsh soaps or chemicals may cause problems including irritation or dryness. Instead, wash the genital area with warm water only to cleanse the vagina without damaging it.
- Discontinuing douching. As we’ve discussed, douching depletes your body’s stores of good lactobacilli bacteria and increases your risk of developing a vaginal infection.
- Using protection during sexual intercourse. Using protection can help preserve your body’s good bacteria and reduce your risk of infection. If you have a male sex partner, use chemical-free latex condoms that don’t irritate your vagina to maintain your vaginal health and prevent you from getting any unwelcome bacteria from your partner. If you have a female sex partner, use a dental dam to prevent the sharing of bacteria, and wash any sex toys thoroughly before sharing them.
- Limiting your number of sex partners. Although the causes of BV are still being investigated, research has confirmed that the more sexual partners you engage with, the greater your risk of developing BV. The more people you have sex with, the greater the chance you will upset the natural balance of your vaginal flora.
Home Remedies for BV
If you think you have BV, some home remedies may help reduce your symptoms. While you should stay away from hydrogen peroxide douches, try:
- Eating foods for vaginal health like yogurt, fruits, vegetables, or apple cider vinegar.
- Taking probiotic supplements to increase your body’s concentrations of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide.
- Using boric acid suppositories to help regulate your vagina’s pH level.
- Applying tea tree oil. Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties don’t work well on lactobacilli, which means using this to treat BV can help wipe out BV-causing bacteria without depleting your body’s stores of good lactobacilli bacteria.
If left untreated, BV can increase your risk of developing sexually transmitted infections like HIV and genital herpes and may also cause pregnancy complications. If you think you have a BV infection that home remedies aren’t treatment, seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider.
For a Happier V, Use Products You Can Trust
The myth that hydrogen peroxide douches are the best treatment for bacterial vaginosis has certainly been debunked. If you experience symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, opt for more natural remedies like vaginal probiotics from Happy V.