Background: I'm on Nuvaring, use tampons, one steady sexual partner, had recent oby/gyn visit and am all healthy (i.e. no STDs or negative Pap result etc.). I used to get UTIs/bladder infections, but I've been doing All the Right Things (peeing before/after sex, cotton underwear, etc.) and they've stopped - yay also for drinking lots of water and lots of cranberry pills.
For me now the problem is yeast infections and/or Bacterial Vaginosis (with high gardnerella vaginalis) with the usual symptoms (distinct smell, discharge, itching, pain or discomfort during sex). Metronidazole has helped, but I think I've been having outbreaks of BV for years and didn't realize that's what it was, because I don't have many symptoms. The problem is, the BV seems to come and go, sometimes clearing up on its own after a day or two, sometimes with obvious symptoms, sometimes not. The last OB-GYN I had was great, but seem to be very philosophical about the whole repeat BV business - 'well, yes, it gets messy down there - infections are inevitable' (which is NOT consoling).
I can't afford to run to my OB-GYN every time I feel like it's starting up to get it tested to see if that's it, and I don't want to just keep on taking Monistat every time I *kind of* feel like I'm getting a flareup of the BV. Sometimes there's a discharge, sometimes there isn't; sometimes it's discomfort during sex, sometimes not. I don't know if it's just a bad combo of Nuvaring (which apparently makes you more susceptible to infections), tampons (sniff - don't want to give those up), I take baths with bubblebath, God knows what - maybe the original infection not completely clearing up, maybe just the joy of being a woman, maybe antibiotics not working, etc. etc.
What to do... I'm reading about yogurt, garlic and boric acid and my head is spinning. My question is about proactive treatment/prevention and what really works. Wikipedia (yes, I know, I shouldn't be quoting it, but it's useful in this case) has a couple of suggestions:
1. Eliminating the unwanted bacteria. Example Tea-tree oil products, FemiGel. Same principle as the antibiotics.
2. Adding buffer / acid to lower the pH. RepHresh is an example.
3. Adding lactic bacteria. Fem-dophilus (Jarrow Formulas) is a lactobacillus product which specifically claims to help maintain healthy vaginal flora.
4. Adding growth substrate for the beneficial lactic acid bacteria to grow and produce lactic acid directly into the vagina. The natural lactic acid bacteria multiply, bringing about a healthy environment. LadyBalance is based on this principle
So my questions are these - and sorry if I sound confusing here:
- prevention: have any of you done any of the above treatments outlined in wikipedia - did anything thing work and in what order? What is a good natural treatment - i.e. I try and eat yogurt, but has anyone had success in preventing yeast infections and BV naturally? How do you know which treatment to try - ie. I see the great list of treatments from the Feminist Women's Health Center (http://www.fwhc.org/health/yeast.htm) but what's the breakdown on treatment - i.e. do you try yogurt first, THEN garlic? Does applying the yogurt topically really make a difference? I've also read that having too much sugar in your diet isn't good - is this true?
- the bacteria: Is it the same bacteria every time you get BV? How do you know if it's a yeast infection or BV? Is the discharge very difference? Whenever I've gotten either of them there's never been much discharge. At least with a bladder infection, you *know* you have it - with this, I never know if it's yeast or not.
- vagina Ph-ness: Is there a way to find out what your vaginal health is without having to give a sample to the lab? Has anyone monitored their pH balance at home (should I run to the store to get a fertility kit to start measuring it? ;) ) and does that work?
- tampons: ok, if I'm using Seventh Generation Organic Unscented Tampons, is this a problem? Do tampons really throw off your pH balance? Is this all fixed by just using the Diva Cup? Periods aren't much of an issue when you're using Nuvaring, but at this point I'd really like to find a solution to the problem. If it's yogurt + diva cup - nuvaring, I'll do it...
Sorry for the length...hope this makes sense! Advice, ladies?