Vaginitis and Vaginal Infections
Follow-up Care for Vaginal Infections
If you've had a vaginal infection, follow up with your health care provider for results of your cervical lab tests and Pap test. It is recommended that you have a complete physical exam every year, whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms.
- Because the chemical balance of the vagina is very sensitive, it is best to let the vagina clean itself. The vagina takes care of cleaning itself naturally through secretions of mucus. Warm water and gentle, unscented soap during the bath or shower is the best way to clean the outside areas of the vagina. Products like feminine hygiene soaps, powders, and sprays are not necessary, and may be harmful.
- Although douching is a common practice among women in the United States, health care providers do not recommend douching to clean the vagina. Douching changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina, which can make you more likely to develop a vaginal infection. Research shows that women who douche regularly tend to have more vaginal infections than women who do not douche or who rarely douche.
- Douching is not a form of birth control, and douching after sex does not prevent pregnancy.
Prevention of Vaginal Infections
The best ways to prevent bacterial vaginosis are not known. However, enough is known to show that BV is associated with having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners. It is seldom found in women who have never had intercourse. Basic prevention would include using condoms, limiting the number of sex partners, not douching, and using all the medicine prescribed for BV treatment, even if your symptoms go away.
Vaginal yeast infections can be easily prevented in most cases by:
- Using over-the-counter antifungal remedies while taking antibiotics to prevent a yeast infection from developing
- Keeping your vaginal area dry, especially after a shower
- Wiping from front to rear after using the toilet
- Switching to looser-fitting cotton underwear
- Changing out of wet bathing suits after a swim
- Avoiding tight-fitting jeans or pantyhose
- Decreasing intake of sweets, bread, and alcohol
- Eating yogurt or taking acidophilus tablets, especially if you are taking antibiotics
- Avoiding chemical irritants in deodorized tampons
Trichomoniasis can be prevented. If you are diagnosed with a trichomonal infection, your sexual partner should also be checked. He or she may have other sexually transmitted diseases and also may re-infect you if not treated. Safe sex with condoms and counseling about sexually transmitted diseases may help decrease the rates of infection and reinfection.
Outlook for Vaginal Infections
If diagnosed and treated correctly, all forms of vaginal infections usually respond well to therapy. Your symptoms will clear up and go away. If your symptoms won't go away or symptoms return, you must be reevaluated by your health care provider.
Bacterial vaginosis is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. BV also can cause problems with pregnancy such as premature delivery and low-birth-weight infants. Your health care provider will be monitoring your condition closely if you are pregnant and have had a premature baby before. BV may also put you at increased risk of gonorrhea and HIV infection.
Trichomoniasis is associated with increased risk of HIV transmission and may cause a woman to deliver a low-birth-weight or premature infant.