The Ultimate Guide to BV and Your Period
30 December 2022
When something goes wrong down below it disrupts our busy lives and is a pain to sort out, as well as being uncomfortable physically, lots of people find it uncomfortable to discuss with health care professionals. Being armed with knowledge beforehand can save you time and energy when an infection strikes.
Bacterial vaginosis or BV is a common cause of vaginal discharge. BV occurs when there are changes to the normally healthy bacteria balance in your vagina. Lactobacillus overgrows.
Fifty percent of people with BV are unaware that they have it, symptoms include a fishy smell with grey / white watery discharge especially after sex with no itching or soreness.
It differs to thrush (an imbalance leading to an excess of the yeast infection candida) which has thick odourless discharge with burning and itching. It is important to identify which you are suffering from and treat accordingly.
Go to your GP, sexual health clinic or pharmacy if you think you may have BV, especially if you are pregnant as it is simple to treat with antibiotic gels but can lead to long periods of infection. There is nothing to be embarrassed about with this common infection which affects many women.
Whilst BV is not a sexually transmitted infection it is thought that it makes catching an STI more likely as it changes the acidity of the vagina and weakens the bodies natural defences and if untreated leads to pelvic inflammatory disease. Same sex partners can pass on the infection.
We answer all your most important questions around BV, how to spot it, what you need to do and how it affects your period, and reusable period products.
Can BV Be Caused by Your Period?
No, BV can't be caused by your period. During your period is important to maintain the healthy ph of your vagina. Using external protection such as pads and reusable period pants can help with this and if you use internal protection opt for organic cotton tampons or menstrual cups.
Doctors may suggest avoiding tampons during a BV infection as they will absorb the antibiotic gels needed to treat the bacterial infection.
Whilst your menstrual blood won't cause an infection, to avoid BV make sure you stay fresh and practise good hygiene during your period as you would for the rest of the month, avoid douches and fragranced washes or disposable fragranced pads and tampons. Speak to your GP if you are worried about any symptoms to rule anything else out.
If you usually use disposable cleaning wipes during your period opt for cotton flannel wipes and just wet as you go! No more perfumes and chemicals.
Can Period Underwear Cause BV?
No, period underwear can’t cause BV because they are no different to your normal underwear with layers of cotton or bamboo next to your skin. Period panties are useful in avoiding BV as they wick fluid away from your skin into their absorbent core and use no chemicals.
If you have a BV infection make sure you rinse your menstrual pants well and wash at 30 degrees. You can add some antibacterial laundry solution to the wash too, or some napisan.
You may find that antibiotic gels make a mark on your period undies but with a good rinse and wash this should not stain and won't affect the menstrual underwears function.
"Absolutely amazing brand I'm 100% fully converted to this brand I am a long time suffer of endometriosis and it has affected my bladder causing incontinence.
I have been skeptical to making the switch to reusable for years and years thinking would I feel comfortable all day , would it be a chore washing them etc etc.
Well I wish I had tried sooner they keep me feeling comfortable and dry all day and on my period I have no leaks either. They are so easy to wash and I have no irritation like I used to suffer with disposable pads." Rachel Aug '21 trustpilot
Can Period Pads Cause BV?
No, reusable period pads can’t cause BV because they leave natural cooling fabrics next to your skin.
Disposable pads with added perfumes CAN cause irritation.
The vagina is naturally lubricated and vaginal discharge is healthy, some people like to wear a daily panty liner to catch this leading to irritation and chafing as well as costing lots of money! Normal cotton underwear are great for absorbing this without upsetting your vulva. If you feel you need to wear something, opt for reusable cloth pads with natural fibres.
"I am an official "reusable sanitary product" convert! I only wish I had done it years ago. I am using the pads for only the second month and already feel much more comfortable using them than the first time round.
I was always a bit skeptical how well they would work and thought it might be "icky" but actually feels really clean and fresh with less irritation than disposables and they are easy to rinse and chuck in the washer.
I needn't have worried about it being grim! I suppose it depends how squeamish you are but it hasn't bothered me at all." Louise Oct '20 trustpilot
Can Menstrual Cups Cause BV?
No, menstrual cups can’t cause BV as long as they are washed effectively after use following manufacturers guidelines and again before inserting into the vagina. As a rule of thumb, make sure everything you put inside yourself is clean and won't upset the balance!
How to Prevent BV
To prevent BV and protect yourself:
- Avoid perfumed products and use unscented flannel wipes for intimate areas.
- Wear breathable period underwear, made from cotton.
- Practise good hygiene, showering regularly
- Be selective with what you put in your vagina - make sure its clean!
- Change internal protection following guidelines
- Avoid internal protection overnight
- Set yourself free at night and go commando!
- Mostly, be gentle with your vagina to maintain its careful balance!
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As always, if you're unsure of what you need to make the switch to reusable sanitary products and period pads, please do drop the team a line or use the online chat function. The team all use the products themselves and just LOVE to chat pee poo and periods, all day long, nothing is TMI and we all love to overshare based on our own experiences...
About the Author: Kirstin Scriven is part of the Customer Experience team at Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. She is mum to 3 and loves the forest, the sea and the hills!
Along with the rest of our crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to overshare. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.