Can BV (bacterial vaginosis) be the cause of your recurring UTIs?

July 19, 2017 Kaitlyn Matousek

 Vagina

A recent study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine found vaginal bacteria can trigger recurrent UTIs. Although BV and UTIs are different infections of different parts of your body, this could explain why sexual intercourse increases your chance of recurring UTIs.

BV (sometimes called vaginal bacteriosis) is an imbalance of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. In a woman's vagina, there different types of bacteria, “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria”. BV occurs when there are more bad bacteria than good.

How do you know if you have BV? Here are the common symptoms:

  • Itchy vagina
  • White or grey discharge
  • Fishy odor

BV is not an STD — a celibate person can still acquire a BV. However, sexual intercourse, especially unprotected intercourse, can greatly increase your chance of developing BV. Also if you are exposed to an STD while you have a BV, you are more susceptible to the STD. That is why BV and STD prevention goes hand in hand.  

UTIs occur when your urinary tract becomes infected. The study found that in young, sexually active women, about 80 percent of UTIs are caused by E. coli.

Prior to this study, researchers thought that the culprit behind recurring UTIs was solely the reintroduction of E. coli. But the study conducted by the University of Washington found that introduction of G. vaginalis, a common bacteria associated with BV, activates dormant E. coli that can live in your bladder at very low levels after UTI is over. When dormant E.coli is exposed to G. vaginalis the E. coli is triggered to multiply, leading to recurrent UTIs. And while both UTIs and BV are commonly treated with antibiotics, the antibiotics given for UTI’s do not kill G. vaginalis, the bacteria found in BVs, so treating one issue won’t necessarily fix the other.

But the study conducted by the University of Washington found that introduction of G. vaginalis, a common bacteria associated with BV, activates dormant E. coli that can live in your bladder at very low levels after UTI is over. When dormant E.coli is exposed to G. vaginalis the E. coli is triggered to multiply, leading to recurrent UTIs.

While more research needs to be done, the early takeaway is that BV could be the link between recurring UTIs and sexual intercourse, which could also change the game of UTI treatment and prevention.

Either way, BV’s and UTI’s are both a major pain. Here are some healthy tips that help prevent both BV and UTIs:

  • Use a condom. Even if you are using birth control, using a condom can help you protect against BV and UTIs by using a condom.
  • Keep that area clean by wiping front to back and wearing loose cotton underwear.
  • Wash only with water, avoiding fragrant soaps and douches.
  • Wash every day, especially after a workout and after sex.
  • Eat a healthy diet, low in processed sugars.
  • Eat lots of probiotic rich foods, like yogurt.




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