I keep getting bad vaginal odor due to BV- three times in six months- and in between I get a whopping yeast infection. I have a new partner (and no, we are not using protection). There also seems to be some link with the bouts of BV and my period. A friend told me about a gel that is supposed to correct my pH, and I’d like to start 2015 right!
Should a Sista’ give this RePhresh product a try?
Dear SuzyKnew! Reader,
BV (bacterial vaginosis) is the most common cause of vaginal complaints, and it is seen all over the world. BV occurs when there is an imbalance in the ecosystem of the vagina- simply put, when there is less protective stuff and more harmful stuff.
The vagina is a complex and dynamic ecosystem, and the acid-base (pH) balance is part of that. Have you heard of the Micro-biome? Well this is it. There are billions of cells working together in our bodies. In the vagina, estrogen (hormones), glycogen (glucose) and lactobacilli (good bacteria) are just some of the actors at play keeping our lady parts functioning well. The vagina is an acidic environment, which keeps bacterial growth in check. It does this on its own, with no help needed from us. Dr Oz famously called the vagina “a self cleaning oven”. You can unintentionally change your vaginal pH by douching or doing internal cleanses. Douching = bad idea! Any disruption in this ecosystem can result in an overgrowth of the bad stuff- which is associated with a higher pH that’s when BV can set in.
Vaginal pH changes during each menstrual cycle (in the presence of blood). So, yes, it is possible that you a tipping the balance around the time of your period. It is curious that you are seeing a connection with your BV and your new partner. Sperm also has a high pH and it is possible that your partner’s sperm could cause a pH imbalance. It is common for female-female partners to pass BV back and forth, less common with male-female partners, but possible. You may be unknowingly re-infecting each other. I would encourage you to use a barrier method, and make sure you both get evaluated by a doctor.
BV can be hard to kick, Even with powerful antibiotics and it has a high reoccurrence rate. Many women – including us Sistas!- get the double whammy of treating BV with antibiotics, just to end up with a yeast infection, then take antifungal yeast treatments that can further upset the vaginal ecosystem. For someone battling this cycle, it’s necessary to replace the good stuff. The simplest, healthiest (and most economical) thing to do is eat yogurt, drink keiffer or visit your health foods store for a probiotic supplement. This helps restore the good bacteria in your whole body, including your vagina.
You asked about a pH balancing gel. The RePhresh line of products is actively marketing to our vaginas and promises to correct vaginal pH and to replace the good bacteria. RePhresh vaginal gel is a polymer gel. There are just three studies on its effectiveness, and these show that after many weeks of using the gel, (between 6-12 weeks) that it can correct vaginal pH. It is expensive (a 12 day supply sell for $20.00). This product may help certain women if you have a pattern of BV and have tried everything else. The company also has a probiotic pill called Rephresh Pro-B which is a basic probiotic supplement targeted for an audience that is concerned about vaginal health. Probiotics are very helpful, particularly after you have taken a course of antibiotics. However, you do not need one specifically marketed for your vagina.
My advice- even though you can get these products over the counter, or on the internet, I recommend that you do this only in consultation with your doctor. Certain medications or serious disease process can bring on a change in pH and vaginal irritation. You do not want to treat a symptom without understanding the underlying cause.