If you’re like most, you’ve experienced a yeast or bacterial infection (termed ‘BV’) at least once in your life. While not usually worrisome, they’re certainly both exceptionally irritating (literally). So what causes them and how can they be prevented?

As I like to remind most patients, the vagina is made to be self-cleaning. Why? Because it naturally maintains the pH it needs– somewhere between 4.0-4.5. This pH allows for a maintained balance of bacteria. If the pH gets disrupted (think: too much washing, antibiotics that kill healthy bacteria, etc etc) the normal environment gets out of whack. This allows for an overgrowth of the yeast of bacteria present in the vagina. Below are some tips on how to prevent these annoyances from coming back!

-Cotton underwear or no underwear

-Avoid tight fitting pants (hurray for sweats!)

-Natural or unscented laundry detergent

-Dove sensitive skin soap or warm water (nothing scented!! Seriously, stay away from the body wash)

-No douching

-Try a probiotic (Align is a great one)

-Decrease sugar, caffeine, and alcohol intake (easier said than done…)

-Avoid lubricants with glycerin in them– try coconut oil (yes, this is the same coconut oil you get in the grocery store. It’s totally safe to use all over your body, including inside the vagina)

-Do not stay in wet clothes (swimsuits, exercise clothing) for too long

-Avoid over-washing (once or twice a day is plenty)

-Blood and semen can also alter the natural pH of the vagina. Heavy, frequent, or prolonged periods can occasionally result in irritation. Keep track of when it happens and note if there’s any correlation

-Keep your immune system healthy!

As always, if you’re experiencing any new or unusual symptoms, pay your provider a visit. They will be able to give you the correct diagnosis (is it yeast? is it BV? is it none of the above?). The above list is meant to help prevent, not to treat.