Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection. It’s caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. You may be able to treat BV with home remedies in some cases, but not all home remedies will work.
One home remedy that isn’t recommended is coconut oil.
Coconut oil has antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, but research doesn’t support its use as a BV treatment. Coconut oil is high in medium-chain fatty acids. This means that it doesn’t dissolve right away in your vagina.
Coconut oil is also an emollient, meaning that it locks in moisture wherever it’s applied. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria, including the bacteria responsible for BV. Because of this, coconut oil may actually make BV symptoms worse when applied to the vagina.
Keep reading to learn more about coconut oil, what it may be used for, and other home remedies that you can use to treat BV.
Coconut oil has demonstrated antimicrobial effects on several different kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and bacteria that cause staph infections.
BV, however, is most often caused by the bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis. And current medical research hasn’t shown that coconut oil can kill or prevent the spread of this bacteria.
Coconut oil has demonstrated antifungal properties and is effective in killing strains of the Candida fungus, whose overgrowth causes yeast infections.
It’s easy to mistake BV for a yeast infection. In fact, an estimated 62 percent of women with BV do just that at first. Yet, despite having similar symptoms, BV and yeast infections are very different conditions with different risk factors, causes, and treatments.
While coconut oil may be an effective treatment for yeast infections, it’s not a proven, or even recommended, treatment for BV.
Coconut oil isn’t an effective BV treatment
Despite its antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil isn’t an effective treatment for BV. In fact, coconut oil may actually aggravate symptoms.
Coconut oil may not be recommended for the treatment of BV, but there are other home remedies you can try, including:
- tea tree oil
- hydrogen peroxide
- boric acid
You may have to try a few home remedies before finding one that works. Each remedy works differently for every person. Be sure to consult with your doctor before trying home remedies, especially if you’re pregnant.
Talk to your doctor if the home remedies you’re using to treat BV aren’t working. Left untreated, BV can of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If you’re pregnant, untreated BV can also increase your risk of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth.
Your doctor will confirm diagnosis through a visual examination. They’ll also likely take a vaginal swab that can be tested in a lab for the presence of the bacteria.
After getting an official diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one of the two antibiotics:
- metronidazole (Flagyl)
Both of these antibiotics can be taken orally or applied topically in the form of a prescription cream or gel. Common side effects for these antibiotics include:
- stomach pain
- vaginal itching
Metronidazole can carry an additional side effect of a metallic taste in your mouth and a fuzzy feeling on your tongue. These treatments can take up to seven days to take effect.
Your doctor may advise abstaining from sex during treatment. They may also recommend that you wear breathable, cotton underwear for the duration of the time you’re on the antibiotic.
It’s essential you take the whole prescribed duration of the antibiotic, even if your symptoms stop before that time. You might consider taking probiotics while you treat BV with antibiotics to decrease your risk of further complications, such as a yeast infection. Consider adding yogurt or other sources of probiotics to your diet.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics.
You can take steps to lower your risk of recurring BV. Prevention strategies include:
- Avoid exposing your vagina and vulva to harsh soaps, and don’t douche. This will help keep your vagina’s natural pH intact.
- Your risk for BV increases with the number of sexual partners that you have. Use condoms, including dental dams for oral sex, when you have sexual interactions with a new partner.
BV isn’t technically an STI. You can get BV without ever having sex. But there’s a connection between sexual activity and BV.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly how men can spread BV, but men who’ve had more than one sexual partner may be more likely to carry BV-causing bacteria on their penis.
Pregnancy also increases your risk for BV.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection that many people develop. From everything we know so far, coconut oil isn’t an effective treatment for BV. In fact, using pure coconut oil in your vagina if you have BV might make your symptoms worse.
Home remedies and antibiotics can be effective in treating the symptoms of BV, but it’s important to find a treatment that works for you. Always consult with your doctor before trying home remedies, especially if you’re pregnant.
Leaving BV untreated can lead to complications, such as a higher risk of STIs. See your healthcare provider if you think you may have BV.