A great thing about the internet is how quickly we can find new information, and how we are easily able to share information with others. An equally not-so-great thing about the internet is that anyone can share anything as if it’s fact and a bunch of people can see it. Recently I’ve seen a lot of stuff online and on social media about using boric acid suppositories to balance your vaginal pH and treat vaginal infections. Although I think sharing knowledge about vaginal health is super important and is a conversation that should happen more often, telling people on the internet to put medicine inside their vagina without consulting their doctor is not a good idea. 

What are boric acid suppositories?

Boric acid is a weak acid that has traditionally been used as an antiseptic to treat cuts and burns. Because it is acidic, it can also be used to help maintain a healthy vaginal pH. Your vagina has a natural pH balance between 3.8 and 4.5 and is naturally acidic. This pH can be thrown off pretty easily, however. Your menstrual cycle, a new sexual partner, unprotected sex, condoms, and scented soap or laundry detergent can all throw off your vaginal pH. Most of the time, our vaginas are able to adjust back to homeostasis, but if things get thrown off too much, that’s when an infection occurs. 

Boric acid suppositories can be used to treat yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis (an STD). Yeast infections are usually treated with antifungal medication that can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis or BV is usually treated with an oral antibiotic. Trichomoniasis is also treated with an oral antibiotic. Basically, boric acid suppositories have worked for some people as additional or alternative treatments for these infections, however, the evidence is not strong enough to say that this is a great treatment for anyone. 

When to ask your doctor about treatment

If you have lingering symptoms of a vaginal infection even after your initial treatment plan has been executed, ask your doctor before using boric acid suppositories! Putting a foreign substance into your vagina can be risky, so it is imperative you consult with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so. Boric acid is available over the counter, whereas these other treatment options are not, so I assume that’s why it has gained popularity online. If your body responds positively to the suppositories, it can help alleviate symptoms of your infection and restore your pH. Side effects include burning at the vaginal opening, watery discharge, and redness around the labia and vagina. You cannot use boric acid suppositories if you are pregnant, as it is fatal for the fetus. It will also irritate any tears or wounds in the skin around or in the vagina. Finally, boric acid should never be ingested orally, as it is poisonous. 

If you want to try boric acid suppositories as an over-the-counter treatment for yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomoniasis, please, please consult your doctor first. Do not put any medication into your vagina without talking it through with your doctor.

Seventy-five percent of people with vaginas experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetime, while nearly 30% of people will experience bacterial vaginosis. Yeast infections and bacterial infections are extremely common, and in fact, you’ve probably experienced one before. Although they are so common, they are not commonly talked about due to stigma or discomfort, so you might not even know the difference between the two. Luckily, I have no discomfort in talking about anything related to sexual health or vaginas, so I can tell you all about these two infections experienced by nearly everyone with a vagina!

Yeast and bacterial infections are both types of vaginitis. Vaginitis is when the vulva (the outer folds of the vagina), and/or vagina (the actual canal inside the body), are inflamed and irritated. This is caused by a number of different things such as wearing a wet swimsuit for too long, using scented laundry detergent, or having sex. 

What are yeast infections?

A yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, occurs when the natural yeast in your vagina grows out of control. Vaginas have yeast in them, and this yeast usually exists without any problems. Your vaginal yeast can grow out of control if the natural balance of your vagina gets thrown off. This can happen due to changes in hormones during a menstrual cycle or pregnancy, from taking antibiotics, a weak immune system, or through a “natural reaction to another person’s genital chemistry.” Yeast infections aren’t contagious, and they aren’t STDs, however, you could disrupt your body’s natural yeast by coming in contact with someone whose genital yeast you don’t jive with. For example, you could get a yeast infection after having sex with a new partner because their genital yeast irritates you. Crazy, right? Additionally, if you notice certain products like bath bombs or laundry detergent irritate your vulva, get rid of them, as these can cause the infection as well.

What are the symptoms of yeast infections?

The most common symptoms of yeast infections are redness, itchiness, and discomfort of the vulva and vagina. You might experience some thick, white, “cottage cheese” like discharge, although not everyone with a yeast infection has a change in discharge. Although the discharge might look different, a change in the smell of discharge with a yeast infection isn’t noticeable. You might also notice a white coating in the folds of your vulva or vagina. If you have a lot of irritation or if you scratch at your itchy crotch, it might also sting a little bit when you pee. Although these symptoms might seem alarming, yeast infections are easily treatable.

Yeast infections are treated with anti-fungal medicine in the form of a cream or pill. You can get over-the-counter yeast infection medicine like Monistat, or your doctor can prescribe you some. Usually, this cream can be put on the vulva and is inserted into the vagina as well. Although yeast infections aren’t STDs or contagious, you should wait to have sex or put anything in your vagina until you are done with your treatment to avoid further irritation. 

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Now, onto bacterial vaginosis! Similar to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis or BV, is caused by an imbalance in your vagina. BV is caused when the healthy bacteria in your vagina get out of balance and grow too much. Anything that throws off the natural pH of your vagina can incite this imbalance and lead to BV. A lot of things can throw off your vaginal pH, including scented pads or tampons, scented toilet paper, having new or multiple sexual partners, or douching. Truthfully, a lot of the things that can cause a yeast infection can also cause BV.

How is it different from a yeast infection?

Eighty-four percent of people with BV don’t experience symptoms or their symptoms are so mild they don’t even notice. If you do experience symptoms, however, they include irritation similar to the yeast infection, and a fishy-smelling discharge that can be thin, milky white, or grayish in color. The fishy smell is often strongest after sex or while you pee. As with a yeast infection, BV isn’t an STD and is easily treatable, although having BV can increase your risk of getting an STD.

BV is treated with antibiotics. Similar to yeast infection treatment, these antibiotics are either in gel or cream form that you put in the vagina or in a pill form. Again, wait to have sex or put things in your vagina until you finish your antibiotics and your symptoms clear up. If you have frequent bouts of BV, taking probiotics can help balance out your body’s natural bacteria.

Although uncomfortable and annoying, both of these forms of vaginitis are fairly common, and you’ll probably experience one or both at least once in your life (if you have a vagina of course). Because these infections are so common, there’s no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed if you experience either. The yeast and bacteria in your vagina can be thrown off by many little things, so it is important to pay attention to your body, your vulva, and your vagina. It’s easy to discount a little itchiness or discomfort as “normal,” but it could be your body telling you that you have a yeast or bacterial infection. Pay attention to your symptoms and see a doctor if you think you have an infection. After a few days of taking medicine, you should feel better!