One common home remedy for bacterial vaginosis (BV) that is often shared includes using hydrogen peroxide. When using hydrogen peroxide to treat BV, most women either use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution as a douche or with a tampon. Small studies have shown success in treating BV with hydrogen peroxide, including for adult women with recurrent bacterial vaginosis using hydrogen peroxide to treat their BV.
However, most medical professionals feel that the studies have been too small and do not have enough evidence to really show if using hydrogen peroxide to treat BV is effective. Other medical practitioners worry that hydrogen peroxide, being an antiseptic, could further disrupt the vaginal flora due to its ability to kill off all vaginal bacteria (both good and bad). This is similar to what antibiotics do. Other practitioners point out the high risk of vaginal irritation from the use of hydrogen peroxide.
Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide for BV with a Tampon?
You may be wondering if it’s possible to use hydrogen peroxide for BV with a tampon. As mentioned previously, the use of hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for BV is not a common practice in the field of medicine due to the small-scale studies that have been done and the mixed results they’ve yielded. In addition, the Department of Health of Western Australia recommends using pads instead of tampons, because tampons can lead to bacterial vaginosis.
The Side Effects of Douching with Hydrogen Peroxide
Although it may seem like a good idea to try hydrogen peroxide to treat bacterial vaginosis, you might be wondering if douching with hydrogen peroxide has any side effects. Medical practitioners usually advise against douching in any form, especially with antiseptics, which can kill both the bad bacteria causing the infection and the good bacteria trying to fight it off.
Douching with hydrogen peroxide may make the vaginal environment less acidic, putting you at risk for further infection. In addition, if you already have BV, douching may actually cause the infection to spread, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease, which may lead to chronic pain.
One study showed that up to 30% of participants who tried a hydrogen peroxide douche ended up with further vaginal irritation. If you’re deciding whether to douche with hydrogen peroxide, talk to your doctor first about treatments they can give you for BV.
How to Detect and Successfully Treat BV
If you suspect that you have bacterial vaginosis, it’s important to talk to your healthcare practitioner. Some common symptoms, if you experience symptoms at all, might include:
- Grayish discharge
- A fishy odor
- Burning with urination
However, it is common in more than half of women to have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis).
If you are concerned about bacterial vaginosis, speak with your healthcare provider who will know how to treat BV. Common treatments for bacterial vaginosis include a variety of antibiotic treatments, such as metronidazole gel, clindamycin, and tinidazole. While it’s generally not necessary to treat the male partner of a woman infected with BV, it is important for a female partner to also get treated. Finally, it’s important to take the whole course of medication, even if symptoms do go away.
How to Treat BV Over the Counter
Experts recommend that before you attempt to self-treat bacterial vaginosis or other vaginal infections, you speak with your healthcare provider about treatment options that they can prescribe. Many people wonder how they can treat BV over the counter, but the problem with this approach is that many over-the-counter vaginal antifungals that work for yeast infections may not work for BV.
While occasional vaginal yeast infections are okay to treat with over-the-counter vaginal antifungals, bacterial vaginosis should be treated with prescription medications prescribed by your healthcare provider. Currently, there is no FDA-approved over-the-counter treatment for bacterial vaginosis.
How to Get Rid of BV Smell
One of the signs that you may have bacterial vaginosis is a fishy smell coming from your vagina. This may seem to get worse after sex, which is why it’s recommended to abstain from sex if you think you have bacterial vaginosis, as well as throughout treatment. [Read our blog post on this topic.]
If you call your healthcare provider with suspicious symptoms and they prescribe you one of the common antibiotic treatments, most BV symptoms, including the odor, should clear up within a couple of days. However, it’s recommended that you continue the treatment for its entirety. Most antibiotic BV treatments take five to seven days to complete.
Common Home Remedies for Curing BV
You may be wondering how you can cure bacterial vaginosis at home. Besides the use of hydrogen peroxide, as we’ve previously discussed in this article, other common home treatments of BV include garlic, tea tree essential oil, and boric acid. According to some research, garlic is naturally antibacterial. Because bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection, it might be effective to use garlic.
Even smaller amounts of research show that tea tree essential oil may be effective in treating bacterial vaginosis due to its antibacterial properties. However, if you’re going to try to cure BV with tea-tree oil, make sure to test a bit of the oil on an inconspicuous part of your skin, since some people can be allergic to tea tree oil. It’s also recommended to use a carrier oil with tea tree oil since it’s so strong.
Boric acid is one of the more common recommended home remedies for treating bacterial vaginosis. If you’re wondering how you can get rid of BV naturally, the use of boric acid suppositories might be a good fit for you. Though the scientific evidence for the use of boric acid as a treatment for bacterial vaginosis is currently small, randomized trials show a lot of potential for the use of boric acid to address bacterial vaginosis.
While it is recommended to speak to a healthcare provider if you suspect that you have bacterial vaginosis, some home remedies for BV can be tried if you talk to your healthcare provider about them beforehand.
How to Get Rid of BV Without Antibiotics
While most BV can easily be cleared up with a round of antibiotics, which usually have no side effects, some people who have recurrent BV or those who like to take their health into their own hands may wonder how to get rid of BV without antibiotics. If your bacterial vaginosis is milder and not causing any serious symptoms, such as intense burning or itching, a burning sensation during urination, blood in the urine, or a fever — and if you are not pregnant — then it may be possible to treat the bacterial vaginosis without antibiotics; however, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider if you suspect you have BV.
In the case of less-serious bacterial vaginosis, it is important to educate yourself about how sex can contribute to BV and how to use safe sex practices, such as having your partner wear a condom, urinating immediately after intercourse, and never switching from vaginal to anal sex without either changing condoms or washing in between.
It’s also important to read up on and practice good vaginal hygiene, including not douching, wearing breathable cotton underwear, washing hands after inserting things like tampons into the vagina, and keeping the vagina dry (don’t sit around in wet underwear or bathing suits).
Finally, it is also beneficial to eat many probiotic foods and even take a probiotic supplement for vaginal health, because they contain the beneficial lactobacilli that help to maintain a balanced and healthy vaginal environment. Along with a feminine health probiotic, you can also try yogurt, cottage cheese, or other fermented foods that have active, live cultures that are beneficial for the human gut biome, as well as the vaginal biome.
Although in general, it’s recommended to treat bacterial vaginosis with antibiotics, these are some things you might try after a conversation with your healthcare provider.
Apple Cider Vinegar for BV
Another popular home remedy is apple cider vinegar. Proponents of natural medicine use certain reasoning for supporting the use of apple cider vinegar in treatment for BV: Apple cider vinegar is acidic, just like a healthy vaginal pH, and therefore using an apple cider vinegar rinse will help balance out the vaginal pH. Another reason used in support of using apple cider vinegar for BV includes the fact that apple cider vinegar is antimicrobial, and thus able to kill bad bacteria that might be infecting the vaginal microbiome.
In addition to these two reasons, some other studies have shown that apple cider vinegar contains lactic acid, which is the type of acid that healthy bacteria create in the vagina. There is some evidence that lactic acid treatment may cure BV. Although there is starting to be some promising research about the potential uses of apple cider vinegar for BV, there is not enough scientific evidence to support apple cider vinegar for BV.
Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause BV?
The vaginal ecosystem is a delicate and sensitive system that is maintained at a relatively acidic pH level (3.8–4.5). The environment must stay this acidic in order for the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria that populate the vagina to survive.
These good lactobacillus bacteria pump out the beneficial lactic acid that maintains healthy vaginal flora, thus keeping you healthy and infection free. Unfortunately, the vagina’s ecosystem can be easily disrupted by various hormonal changes or outside influences that might transform the healthy acidic vaginal environment into a potentially alkaline environment in which bad bacteria that cause infection can thrive.
Indeed, changing hormonal levels in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause can lead to an imbalance of the vaginal biome, which can cause bacterial vaginosis. In a study in The Journals of Gerontology, it was found that 25–38% of postmenopausal women are at risk of contracting bacterial vaginosis. In fact, it’s also been noted that 10–30% of pregnant women are at risk of contracting bacterial vaginosis. It’s also incredibly important to treat bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, as untreated bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy can lead to complications such as premature labor, premature rupture of membranes, and low birth weight. One study found that changing levels of estrogen can cause bacterial vaginosis.
Thus it is becoming increasingly apparent that normal hormonal fluctuations that happen in a woman’s life can put her at risk of contracting bacterial vaginosis.
Whatever remedy you choose, whether it’s antibiotics or hydrogen peroxide for BV, understand that you are not alone, and you aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong — many women lead very healthy lifestyles and still get BV.