If you’ve ever had or are prone to getting bacterial vaginosis (BV), you might be wondering if BV can affect your period.
Bacterial vaginosis can often be instigated by hormonal changes, such as those that occur as a part of your menstrual cycle, since these hormonal changes can affect the overall acidity and bacterial balance inside the vagina. Normally, the vagina’s internal pH hovers within the acidic range of 3.8 to 4.5. But since menstrual blood is more neutral (around 7.4 pH), this can raise the acidity level of the vagina, making you more susceptible to vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis.
So your period might raise your risk for BV, but what about the other way around? Can having BV affect your period? While it is possible for bacterial vaginosis to cause a small amount of bleeding or spotting, there doesn’t seem to be any clear evidence suggesting that BV can affect your period. In other words, the hormonal changes around your period might bring upon BV, but there doesn’t seem to be a link to that being the other way around.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that untreated BV can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause bleeding. Although the bleeding might make you think you’re having your period, PID doesn’t really have anything to do with your period.
What to Do If You Get BV While on Your Period
If you happen to notice any signs or symptoms of getting BV during your period, you might want to wait a day or two to see if the problem goes away. Sometimes, your naturally occurring lactobacilli (or good bacteria) that live in your vagina will correct the problem on their own.
However, if some time passes and you still have symptoms of feeling “off”, it doesn’t hurt to consult your doctor, whether you’re on your period or not. Getting BV while you’re on your period is nothing to feel bad about. Often, the hormonal changes that occur before, during, and after your period can have an effect on the bacterial balance of your vagina. Keep in mind that your doctor might wait to treat the bacterial vaginosis until after the cessation of your period, but it’s a good idea to have a conversation with them.
To feel fresh whether you have BV or not, you may also want to try a cleansing product like our Rebalance Personal Moisturizing and Cleansing Wipes or Balance pH-Balanced Personal Wash. Both will accurately match your optimal pH levels and support a healthy vaginal ecosystem. Read more about the benefits of using pH-balanced vaginal products in our blog post “What Every Woman Needs to Know About Vaginal pH.”
Treating Bacterial Vaginosis While on Your Period
Bacterial vaginosis can be a nuisance, but in general, it is often easily treatable and can occasionally go away on its own.
The standard course of treatment for BV is a prescription for either metronidazole (Flagyl) or clindamycin (Cleocin) antibiotics, and these may be taken orally or administered vaginally. In addition to the medication that's prescribed for BV, many medical practitioners recommend switching to menstrual pads. The reason for this is that many antibiotic treatments for BV are in the form of vaginal suppositories, which don’t work as well when using tampons. Unfortunately, tampons can absorb the medicine, which make treatment less successful. You should also make sure you are changing your pad on a regular basis.
Because BV is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, your natural hormonal changes as well as the high pH of your menstrual blood can trigger an infection. But once your hormones have adjusted after your period, it may resolve your BV symptoms as well. That being said, if you’re still noticing symptoms, are itchy, are in pain, or if your periods are accompanied by a strong, fishy odor, it’s best to get checked out by your doctor.
Can BV Disrupt Your Cycle?
If your periods are irregular and if you’ve had BV before, you may be wondering if BV can delay your period. While BV may not actually change the hormonal fluctuations that cause your period, it is possible that the infections may cause uterine contractions and/or a bit of spotting and bleeding. This may make you think that you’re getting your period, when you’re really dealing with a vaginal infection. And although BV cannot give you irregular cycles on its own, the infection may disrupt the overall bacterial balance in your vagina.
Also keep in mind that when bacterial vaginosis is left untreated, more serious conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can arise. It’s important to pay attention to your monthly hormonal cycle to understand what is normal for you and to track any changes that may be occurring.
How to Prevent Recurrent BV
Bacterial vaginosis is considered “recurrent” if it has occurred more than four months in a row following your period. When it comes to prevention, preliminary research shows that your preferred method of dealing with menstrual blood may affect your recurrence of BV.
There is some evidence to suggest that the use of tampons may increase your risk of getting BV since the insertion of tampons may affect the overall bacterial balance within the vagina. For this reason, it might be a good idea to transition to the use of pads or menstrual cups. Of course, make sure you’re changing your pad and emptying your menstrual cup regularly if you decide to go that direction.
Another preventative measure that may help your vagina stay balanced throughout your cycle is to use our gynecologist-recommended Restore Moisturizing Vaginal Gel. Restore promotes healthy vaginal flora by mimicking the body’s natural pH levels, salt balance, and lactic acid produced by healthy lactobacilli. Even better is to combine Restore with BiopHresh Vaginal Probiotic Supplement for a powerful, proactive, daily feminine hygiene routine. BiopHresh is friendly to your microbiome and has been shown in clinical studies to lower vaginal pH, creating a mildly acidic condition and promoting a healthy microbial environment.*
Practicing Good Hygiene on Your Period
To summarize, it is possible for BV to affect your period, but not in the most obvious ways. For example, BV will not affect the hormonal fluctuations or timing around when you get your period, so it’s not going to change your cycle. That being said, BV can be asymptomatic or show up in unexpected ways (such as with spotting or occasional blood), which may make you think that BV is affecting your period. If you’re concerned, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Periods are uncomfortable enough without adding BV into the mix. Just know that if you start noticing any strange symptoms, like itching, burning or a strong, fishy odor that gets stronger on or around your period, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.
What if you begin treatment for BV while on your period? Most doctors recommend wearing pads instead of tampons during treatment to ensure that the tampon doesn’t soak up the medicine. And if you develop recurrent BV, it might be a good idea to rethink your period hygiene. Preliminary research shows that using pads or menstrual cups can prevent BV as they don’t affect the overall bacterial balance the way tampons do. There is also some research suggesting that IUDs, a common form of birth control, may alter the vaginal microbiome, making you more susceptible to BV.
Overall, if you’ve been worried that BV can affect your period, just know that it’s likely the hormonal imbalance that happens around your period that’s causing the BV and not the BV affecting your period. Practice good hygiene throughout your menstrual cycle and speak to a doctor if you have any further concerns.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.