11 Causes Of Vaginal Infections And Their Solutions

Have you been itching down there for some time already?

Chances are, you may have a vaginal infection.

Vaginitis is the general term for vaginal inflammation and infections.

Vaginal infections are so common in women that it is estimated that almost all women will have some form of infection at least once in their lifetime.

Some women may not have any symptoms at all. Others may be faced with an unpleasant odor, raging itch, pain when urinating, and/or abnormal vaginal discharge. 

Different Causes, Different Treatments

There are many reasons why you have a vaginal infection. You may be surprised to find that something as unrelated as stress could result in vaginal infections.

It is important to know the cause for your vaginal infection because different causes require different treatments.

For example, if your vaginitis is due to abrasion from rough material from your new jeans, changing to a softer, more breathable material will resolve the inflammation.

However, if it is due to an infection from an STD, then appropropriate medication is required to combat the infection.

Here are 11 possible reasons why we can have vaginal infections.

Yeast Infections

One of the most common types of vaginitis.

One group of fungus known as Candida, exists naturally in our body in small numbers. Among which, the Candida Albicans species is the most common.

These yeast usually does not pose any harm when in small numbers.

However, when the conditions are right, aka warm and moist, these yeasts tend to multiply like crazy, resulting in vaginal infections.

Vaginal yeast infection symptoms may include:

  • Yellowish-white thick vaginal discharge that takes on a cottage cheese appearance
  • Vaginal itching and burning
  • Redness around vulva
  • Beer like odor

A mild yeast infection may go away by itself after a few days. If you are pretty sure it is a yeast infection, and you are definitely not pregnant, you may want to check out some OTC antifungal treatment or try some homemade boric suppositories to relieve some of the symptoms.

Bacterial Infections

Opposed to the yeast, where havoc wrecks when the numbers go haywire, you may get vaginitis from bacterial infection when your “good” bacteria, like lactobacilli, depletes in number.

The lactobacilli helps to maintain the pH balance in our vaginal environment, by keeping the level of “bad” bacteria in check. Science is not entirely sure why bacteria levels change, but certain behaviors like douching can encourage bacteria imbalance.

When there is an overgrowth of bacteria species like the Gardnerella, the lactobacilli can be easily overwhelmed, wrecking havoc internally.

The end result is bacterial vaginosis (BV).

BV symptoms may include:

  • Thick whitish grey vaginal discharge
  • Fishy odor
  • Vaginal itching
  • Painful urination

As with vaginal yeast infections, mild cases of BV can go away by itself within a few days. For more serious cases (if you are in constant discomfort), the doctor may prescribe antibiotics for you.

One popular home remedy is to dip yogurt in tampons and leave it inside the vagina to increase the good bacteria count. Does it really work?

Well, according to Medlineplus.gov,

“Treating vaginal infections caused by bacteria (bacterial vaginosis). Clinical research shows certain strains of Lactobacillus might help treat bacterial vaginosis when applied inside the vagina. Researchers have found Lactobacillus acidophilus suppositories (Vivag, Pharma Vinci A/S, Denmark) and vaginal tablets (Gynoflor, Medinova, Switzerland) may be effective. Researchers have also found that vaginal capsules containing Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (EcoVag Vaginal Capsules, Bifodan A/S, Denmark) can lengthen the time between infections. Eating yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus might prevent these infections from occurring again.”

So, in a nutshell, while the scholastic recommendation is that lactobacilli based suppositories may be helpful in combating BV, the official suggestion for yogurt, on the other hand, is to EAT it, and not wear it inside you. 

The brands suggested above are not readily available in the US due to FDA clearance issues. If you reside in Europe, you may have a better chance of finding it in local pharmacies.

I only managed to locate EcoVag on Amazon, but it does come with a rather hefty price tag.

For those in the US, you may want to consider vH Essentials Prebiotic Vaginal Suppositories. It has a 4 out of 5 star ratings on Amazon, and has a rather wallet friendly price, usually less than $10.

vH Essentials Prebiotic vaginal suppositories are usually sold in packs of 15 suppositories with 1 applicator. It is hassle free as there is no need to refrigerate, so there is no worry of your suppositories melting and becoming useless. 

Now for the caveat.

As with all treatments, some people respond really well, while others have ZERO response, as seen from the various reviews on Amazon. 

If you are really not keen to start on antibiotics, vH Essentials probiotic vaginal suppositories can be a wallet friendly homeopathic alternative to consider.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Of all the STDs, Trichomoniasis is the most common cause for vaginal infections.

It is caused by tiny parasites that can be transmitted upon sexual contact, and symptoms usually appear with 4 to 20 days upon infection. 

Trichomoniasis symptoms may include:

  • Frothy discharge that can come in colors of yellow, green or greyish. 
  • Fishy odor
  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Discomfort during intercourse
  • Vaginal irritation and burning sensation

Trichomoniasis is unlikely to go away by itself, although some people reported that it can. I think it may be safer to assume that the trichomoniasis exists, you are just not as symptomatic.

Medical treatment include antibiotics as well as alcohol abstinence.

Others have recommended apple cider vinegar to flush out the parasites. Its effectiveness is currently inconclusive and largely dependent on anecdotal accounts.

Other STDs that can commonly result in vaginal infections include chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Chlamydia symptoms may include:

  • Yellowish discharge 
  • Strong unpleasant odor
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Lower abdomen pain
  • Vaginal itching and burning sensation

Gonorrhea symptoms may include:

  • Slippery or creamy yellow green discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • General fatigue and fever
  • Sore throat/eyes/joints
  • Lower abdomen pain

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea cannot resolve by itself.

These are serious medical conditions that can affect your fertility, and needs to be treated medically. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured easily with the right treatment (usually prescriptive antibiotics).

At the same time, abstinence from sexual activities is recommended to avoid spreading of the disease. 

Medication Like Antibiotics

Did you know that taking too much antibiotics can actually result in vaginal infections?

If you think about it, it is actually quite ironic that antibiotics can both cure and cause vaginal infections.

Antibiotics are meant for treatment for bacterial infections. But it generally does not distinguish between the “good” and “bad’ bacteria, so whichever gets targeted gets eliminated.

What happens is that when such annihilation happens, the delicate bacterial balance goes topsy turvy. It is not unusual that people who took antibiotics for say, their strep throat, will later end up with a vaginal yeast infection.

Vaginal infections that are caused by antibiotics usually resolves by itself within a few days. That being said, boosting your immunity is one of the best ways to eliminate any medication related infection.

Increasing your vitamin C supplemental intake is one great way to boost your immunity. Some studies have shown that taking vitamin C supplements may be useful at combating colds and flus.

One brainy pharmacist I know who swear by the effectiveness of Vit C in boosting immunity.

She shared that she would always increase her vitamin C supplement intake whenever she feels an inkling of a flu, and it had proved to be helpful in preventing a full blown flu/cold attack thus far. 

Contraceptive Preparation

Technically, not all contraceptive preparations can result in vaginal infections.

Hormonal based birth control options like pills, skin patches and vaginal ring contain a mixture of synthetic estrogen and progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone).

These hormones can disrupt the normal hormonal balance in our bodies, resulting in yeast overgrowth, which can lead to vaginal infections.

The technicalities is as such - Candida loves estrogen. It binds itself to estrogen in the blood stream whenever available. This lowers the estrogen levels in our body.

Now, estrogen balances the level of progesterone present in our body. When estrogen goes down, progesterone goes up, allowing yeast and bacteria to thrive.

So if you suspect your vaginal infection is due to your contraception, perhaps consider switching from hormonal based birth control to non hormonal ones like barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms.

One thing to note about condoms is that majority in the market is latex based. While this is not an issue for many, for the women who are allergic to latex, they can have major inflammation around the vaginal area after sex.

While terrible sex can also do that too, the latex in condoms is usually the culprit. The solution to this is to consider using non latex based condoms for birth control. The popular brand Durex have come up with a non latex range, but the cost can sometimes put you off sex.

A great alternative is LifeStyle SKYN condoms, which are non latex lubricated condoms, that according to one Amazon reviewer who used it as water balloon and found it unexpectedly tough, “bouncing unbroken down his gravel driveway”.

For less than 10 bucks, you get 24 condoms that are accordingly “unbreakable”, it may be good news for those of you who are looking for some serious birth control action, non latex to boot!

Sexual Intercourse

This would be a totally weird article if we don’t talk about sex, right?

So, there are plenty of ways you can get vaginal infections from sex. Turns out the way you have sex can also hurt you.

If you are into rough sex, masochism, clips and all, chances are, your delicate skin around your privates can get irritated and inflamed after all the action, which can lead to vaginitis.

One interesting study found that preference for oral sex can increase the risk of developing vaginal yeast infections, while other study indicated that women who masturbated with saliva are three times more likely to develop vaginal yeast infection!

Speaking of lubricants, did you know that your choice of lubricants can also hurt you?

One thing to note about oil based lubricants (including oils like mineral oil and baby oil) is that the oil in the lubricant can degrade latex.

So, if your partner prefers to use latex condoms (which you should consider switching to non latex ones), you are in danger zone for birth control!

In addition, oil based lubes can be difficult to wash off totally. This may result in trapping of bacteria which may lead to an overgrowth.

Viola, vagina infection!

Using difficult to wash off oil based lubes may also increase your risk of contracting urinary tract infections(UTI), which can be both painful and itchy.

If you really really like/enjoy lubricants, try choosing water based ones instead. 

LuLu lube water based lubricant is glycerin and paraben free, so it is more suitable for people with more sensitive skin. Most people like it for its slippery-ness, and extra points for ease of wash up.

Apparently, the folks at Amazon like it too as the LuLu lube water based lubricant is rated Amazon’s choice for personal lubricant for sex for being highly rated and well priced!

And since we are on the topic of lubes, let’s talk about “backdoor” play. If you are a fan, do consider changing condoms at the different “entry” points.

The E Coli bacteria is commonly found in the bowel area, and transference is notoriously easy, especially if anal sex is followed by vaginal intercourse. The ensuing result is often uncomfortable infections and inflammation of your vagina area.

So, even if it may disrupt the sexy rhythm, it is actually really worth it for your general health to take five and change a condom in between breaks.

Changes In Sexual Partners

Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the more sexual partners you have, the higher risk you are at contracting STDS as well as vaginal infections, just based on probability alone.

The simple science is this -everyone brings with them their own unique set of bacteria teeming alive down there.

Upon copulation, some naughty bacteria generally would decide that your base is better and set up new camp in you. This disrupts the natural bacteria balance inside you, which can result in overgrowth and infections!

Picture this.

Boy A meets girl B and sex happens.

Now girl B has some of boy A’s bacteria. 

Then girl B sleeps with boy C (who also slept with girl D and girl E previously), so girl B gets some of boy C’s, and get this, some of girl D’s and girl E’s bacteria too (because boy C has them)!

So just by having two partners, girl B now has bacteria from boy A, boy C, girl D and girl E.

Think numbers, people. Exponential numbers!

Also think protection. Wearing condoms and female condoms are the only birth control methods that can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

A little caveat about female condoms - these are alternatives to the regular condoms which women can wear. This is a viable option for women who wants the security, or have partners who refuse to wear condoms.

The shame about it is that they can be quite expensive and not readily available in pharmacies. Amazon does carry them - the non latex version as well as the latex version.

Douches

Ah, my favorite diss.. The douche.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines douche as

a jet or current of liquid (such as a cleansing solution) directed against or into a bodily part or cavity (such as the vagina)

I think there may be potential medical benefits for douching, if say for example, if you have poisonous liquids pumped into the vagina.....

Really. It can happen sometimes. 

In this situation, douching provides a means of cleaning out the vagina, similar to the concept of how doctors would pump the stomach for people who overdosed.

Otherwise, I cannot really imagine reasons to recommend douching.

The primary reason is simply because our body is really smart.

Our vagina environment contains the ability to self cleanse, and self regulate to optimal balance, if we provide it with the right conditions.

For what it is worth, I can see why some women like the idea of douching - cleaning it from within for a fresh start.

But if you think about the pros and cons, douching is not really worth it because it can

  1. Introduce unwanted chemicals into your vagina; 
  2. Disrupts your vaginal flora balance. 

And we all know that disrupting the balance almost always lead to some form of infection.

Instead of douching, you can consider unscented soap to wash your lady bits. Lots of women I know like using Dr Bronner’s unscented baby soap to maintain their feminine hygiene.

I prefer using the liquid soap version for hygiene and convenience reasons. I like that it is relatively easy to wash off, and keeps me feeling fresh and not dry. One 32 oz bottle can really last for quite a while, so i feel that it is actually quite value for money.

On the other hand, I have had quite a few people recommending Kirk’s Fragrance free coco castile soap for as their choice feminine washing soap, especially for sensitive skin. Many people reported that it’s easy to wash off and keeps them feeling fresh and soft.

These soaps are great on the wallet and are multipurpose too! Some people actually use it to make their homemade laundry detergent.

You can read more about how to wash your vagina properly here.

Stress

Did you know that chronic stress can actually trigger vaginal infections?

If you have been under stress for prolonged periods, your body’s immune system may weaken, providing the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to wreck havoc.

The science behind it is like this - under chronic stress, your body starts produce more of this hormone called cortisol.

Increase in cortisol levels have two consequences. It can suppress the immune system and also increase your blood sugar levels.

Evolutionarily that makes sense because increasing your blood sugar availability is incredibly useful when the caveman needs that extra boost to run away from the lion.

However, in peaceful times like ours, the increase in blood sugar levels only serves to provide more food for yeast, which can trigger an overgrowth.

Leading to vaginal yeast infections. Which sucks.

For some people, stress can also lead to anxiety. Anxiety leads to poor sleep (which further affects your immunity), and increased discomfort awareness for some.

I also know of some people who starts scratching themselves when they are stressed/anxious. Scratching excessively can result in broken skin, which can increase your risk for infections. It’s like a really bad vicious cycle that keeps spiraling down.

Now repeat after me and say,

“I shall not scratch my vagina, and if I HAVE TO, I’d make sure to cut my nails”.

There are lots of literature out there about stress relieve methods so I shan’t delve too much in it in this article.

To me, I think the most important factor in managing stress is the awareness of what is causing all that in the first place, so that we can find appropriate solutions to the problem.

That being said, there are lots of fun stress relieving methods out there that people enjoy.

If you are the quiet kind, you may enjoy some adult coloring for distractions.

If you are the bursting with energy kind, go get a squishy ball or some bubble wrap and go crazy with it. 

In fact, bursting bubble wrap is such a popular stress reliever in Japan that they invented the electronic bubble wrap keychains so that they will never run out of bubbles to pop!

Ah...the things that ingenious Japanese can come up with.

Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

With all those hormones running amok when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your immunity takes a hit and usually becomes weaker.

So it is no wonder why you are more at risk of developing vaginal infections. Especially if you are running low on sleep (be it from all the nocturnal toilet trips or marathon breastfeeding sessions).

Noteworthy vaginitis include vaginal yeast infections, BV, as well as Group B Streps (GBS).

“20 to 25 percent of all healthy woman have GBS bacteria living in their system, usually in the intestinal tract, rectum, or vagina.”

- Dr. Myra Wicks, ob-gyn, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

GBS can increase your risk of developing UTI, and pregnant women are usually tested for it within weeks 35 to 37.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent GBS, but you will be given antibiotics if you are tested positive for it during pregnancy.

You can help yourself by choosing more complex carbs instead of simple ones. Simple carbs can up your blood sugar levels easily, tempting yeasts to boom and populate.

Choose to wear breathable underwear and pee regularly. Relax more and exercise moderately.

I know it all seem easier said than done when you are heavily pregnant or struggling with what seems like a permanent fixture on your boobs.  

Just remember this, you won’t be pregnant forever, and you won’t have to breastfeed forever.

Terrible Fashion Choices

Long time readers of CFO would know that I genuinely believe that terrible fashion choices can result in odor and infections down there.

You can totally read about my rants  detailed analysis on fashion here:

The long and short of it is this, keep your privates breezy. Bacteria loves a warm and moist environment.

Encourage good air circulation with breathable underwear and bottoms so that the bacteria does not have the correct environment to thrive.

Choose flat shoes and carry backpacks instead of sling bags.

Better still, make your man carry your stuff. Tell him it’s for your feminine health! Afterall, he does have a vested interest in your general wellbeing.

So there you go, 11 most common reasons for vaginal infections and their recommended solutions.

Sometimes, your vaginal infection could be the result of one or more reasons combined. If you cannot establish the reason for your infection, and you are suffering, please seek medical attention immediately.

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