How Antibiotics can impact your vaginal health

What are antibiotics?

Most likely you have taken antibiotics at some point in your life, so you know what they are!

Antibiotics are medications that destroy and prevent the growth of bacteria. They’re used to treat infection; that means they don’t treat viruses, only bacterial infections. 

Usually your immune system can fight an infection, but when you need a helping hand, antibiotics take over some of the burden. 

A little history

Penicillin is the first antibiotic to be widely used, discovered in 1928.  The first person to successfully be treated with penicillin was a woman, named Anne Miller: 

In March 1942, Anne Miller became the first civilian to receive successful treatment with penicillin. She narrowly avoided death following severe infection after a miscarriage.

Antibiotics save lives; after its discovery, years of testing occurred to ensure that antibiotics were safe and reliable for wide consumption. 

Now, there are many types of antibiotics available for use. Most require prescriptions, but some topical antibiotics are available over-the-counter. 

Antibiotics and UTI’s

Many women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in time. It’s often a woman’s most familiar use for antibiotics!

A UTI is caused when bacteria is introduced to the urethra, and women are especially susceptible to UTI’s because of their relatively short urethra. An untreated UTI can lead to kidney infection and serious complications. 

Thank goodness for antibiotics, the treatment for a UTI!

Antibiotic impact on vaginal health

Like with any medication, antibiotics come with a warning label of potential side effects, including: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Upset stomach
  • Sensitivity to sunlight, when taking tetracyclines
  • With certain antibiotics or prolonged use, fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina

But there are potential vagina-specific side effects, as well. 

Antibiotics can cause yeast infections by accidentally annihilating “good bacteria” in the vagina that usually keep things functioning smoothly. Yeast infections lead to itchiness and irritation for the vagina and vulva, and need to be treated with antifungal medication (and maybe eating some yogurt or taking probiotics to replenish your good bacteria after a round of antibiotics). 

Protect your vagina after antibiotics

Your body needs to bounce back after an infection and after the remedy for the infection, as well. To keep your vaginal bacteria from being demolished during a round of antibiotics, consider these tips: 

  • Avoid tight and dirty clothes, especially after a workout
  • Keep your intimate area clean, and remember to wipe front to back
  • Support your gut health and avoid eating things that might feed into a yeast infection
  • Take a probiotic, but not at the same time as the antibiotic: give it at least a couple hours 

As always, listen to your body: when one thing throws off your body, it might take a couple different things to get you back to baseline, but in the long run it’s so much better to look out for the warning signs early and take preventative measures. 

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