Risk Factors for Vaginal Infections

In general, the acidic environment of the vagina is the key factor in preventing infection by any of the different organisms. This environment is maintained by the presence of large numbers of lactobacillus bacteria. Anything that decreases the number of these bacteria or otherwise affects the pH (acidity) of the vaginal fluid increases the risk of infection. These factors include:

  • Antibiotic therapy – antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections elsewhere in the body can also kill lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina
  • Douching – the use of douches and other feminine hygiene products increases the pH of the vaginal fluid and disrupts lactobacillus colonies
  • Menstruation – menstrual blood temporarily increases the pH in the vagina
  • Sexual intercourse (unprotected) – semen also temporarily increases the pH in the vagina
  • Pregnancy – fluctuations in hormone levels during pregnancy increase the risk for vaginitis. Oral contraceptives may also increase risk.

Although bacterial vaginosis is not strictly considered a sexually transmitted disease, a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners are risk factors for both bacterial vaginosis and trichomonas vaginitis. Diabetes, a history of steroid use and immune diseases including HIV/AIDS are all additional risk factors for candida vaginitis.