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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Can Stress Cause BV? Exploring the Possible Link

Can Stress Cause BV? Exploring the Possible Link

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
4 min read 1046 Views 0 Comments
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Stress controls many mental and physical aspects of the body. Some people may notice an increase in vaginal infections during emotional times. We explain whether there’s a link between stress and bacterial vaginosis, including ways to prevent this horrible infection.

can stress cause BV

Not managing your stress can lead to a range of health problems. 

Some women might notice gradual changes in their vaginal health. This could be dryness, inflammation, odors, and even recurring infections like thrush or bacterial vaginosis. 

Chronic stress has a way of encouraging unhealthy bacteria in the body. When these bacteria disrupt the pH balance, women of reproductive age are more likely to develop persistent infections.

Interested in discovering the potential connection? Just keep reading this article.

Can Stress Cause BV?

Yes, stress can cause bacterial vaginosis. The stress hormone cortisol weakens your immune system and makes the vagina more susceptible to pH imbalances. Any change to your natural acid balance can increase the chances of BV and yeast infections.

One study found that psychological stress can upset your vaginal flora. This is a micro-ecosystem containing good and bad bacteria. If something disrupts the peaceful balance, pathogens like gardnerella vaginalis can overthrow healthy bacteria and cause BV. 

Your body produces cortisol as a stress response. High cortisol levels encourage infection and inflammation due to slower immune reactions. Because of this, the lower genital tract microbiome cannot regulate bacteria or produce enough discharge to protect the vagina.

Of course, there are other ways stress can cause vaginal infections. The fight-or-flight response may push you to form bad habits. Some of these include unprotected sex, poor vaginal hygiene, and binge eating processed food, all of which negatively impact your natural pH scale. 

What Is BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a type of vaginal infection that stems from bacteria overgrowth. Too much bad bacteria upsets the natural balance in your vagina. Common symptoms comprise a potent odor, vaginal dryness, and strange-colored discharge. 

Gardnerella vaginalis is usually responsible for recurring infections. These bacteria coexist with other microorganisms but can turn nasty when produced excessively. You have a balance in your vagina, so once that gets disrupted, all forms of bacteria start to double and lose control. 

Just remember that BV is not a sexually-transmitted infection like chlamydia. Speak to a doctor about getting antibiotic treatment for a week or two. Some people use at-home remedies that involve yogurt or garlic tablets, but BV is a stubborn infection that doesn’t go away on its own. 

What Triggers BV?

Douching, not using condoms, and having a new sex partner could trigger BV. These instances are more likely to disrupt your vaginal pH. You should take precautions if you’re prone to infections and want to stop them from returning in the future. 

Anything that messes with the bacteria in your vagina puts you at an increased risk of getting infections. Not practicing good hygiene could make you feel extremely uncomfortable. Simply wash the area with warm water, and never use perfumed soaps or deodorants to clean it.

Stress hormones could also trigger BV and yeast infections. This is because the stress response weakens the body’s ability to clean your vaginal walls. Some forms of psychological stress also lead to pregnancy complications, spotting, and urinary tract infections in women. 

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

People will experience different symptoms depending on their infection. A doctor can determine the right treatment by taking samples of the bacteria and running tests. BV might feel similar to a yeast infection, but the discharge is thinner and is accompanied by a strong “fishy” smell. 

Below are some common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis: 

  • Thin, gray, white, or green vaginal discharge
  • Foul-smelling vaginal odor (usually fishy) 
  • Itchiness around or in the vagina 
  • Burning or pain during urination

For those who get these symptoms alongside fever, painful sexual intercourse, and a disrupted menstrual cycle, seek medical attention quickly. There’s a chance you could have an STD like chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis, genital herpes, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

How to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis

There are several ways you can stop this BV infection from disrupting your vaginal health. You also need to manage stress if you want a healthy sex life and pH concentration.

Here are 3 ways you can prevent bacterial vaginosis: 

#1 Start using probiotics

Certain probiotic supplements are designed to support vaginal health. They contain good bacteria that feed your gut and immune system. Of course, stronger immune responses can fight off infections, especially ones that target the natural microorganisms in your vaginal tract.

#2 Avoid douching

Douching is the act of washing the inside of your vagina with water. This method can cause many health problems that end in common infections like BV. Studies prove that douching with any kind of fluid or cleansing product can wash out the good bacteria on your vaginal walls. 

#3 Use condoms

Condoms protect you from bad bacteria that may be on external surfaces. They are also protection against sexual diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. You should choose high-quality protection that doesn’t irritate your vagina or break during sexual intercourse. 

A Word From MD

Bacterial vaginosis is a stubborn infection that triggers uncomfortable symptoms. You might notice foul-smelling odors or discharge that doesn’t look right. Not managing stress correctly could worsen BV, especially if you aren’t eating suitable foods or practicing good hygiene.

People who aren’t managing stress could also face other complications. These include bloody urine, high blood pressure, chronic migraines, and constipation. Reducing cortisol hormones boosts glycogen production – a process that feeds the good bacteria living in the vagina.

Consider going for morning walks too. One study found that regular exercise improves your mental health and stress levels, which ultimately leads to a strengthened immune system. Exercise helps to regulate your adrenal glands by preventing the release of cortisol.

Always consult with a doctor when treating BV. You may need a single treatment of antibiotics to balance the bacteria in your vagina again. To relieve some symptoms at home, wash the vagina with warm water regularly, avoid tight clothing, hydrate the body, and avoid sexual intercourse.


Being stressed can increase the risk of vaginal infections. This is because high cortisol levels prevent your vagina from harboring good bacteria. To prevent these vaginal infections, start taking probiotic supplements, avoid douching, and practice safe sex using condom protection.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
4 min read 1046 Views 0 Comments

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