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Pelvic Health

Swimming and BV

Swimming and BV

by Dr. Barb DePree, MD

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common vaginal infections affecting women aged 14-45. Caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, BV is treated with antibiotics but is also known to reoccur in many women, particularly those who are pregnant or going through menopause.

Read on to learn more about the causes of BV, if swimming in a pool can contribute to the bacterial imbalance, and what you can do to prevent BV infections. 

What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

BV is a vaginal infection that occurs when the naturally residing bacteria in the vagina become imbalanced. Although asymptomatic in many, some women with BV experience symptoms like genital itching, a gray or green vaginal discharge with a fishy odor, and a burning sensation when urinating.  

Can Swimming in a Pool Cause BV?

Swimming does not cause BV, however, the chlorine used to clean swimming pools can increase the risk of getting BV by killing the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in the vaginal microbiome.  

Swimming pools and hot tubs are kept free of harmful bacteria with a chemical called chlorine. Unfortunately, the presence of chlorine in both pools and hot tubs can also kill the good bacteria in the vagina as well as the harmful bacteria.

Even though this does not cause BV, or other vaginal infections, the lowered levels of beneficial bacteria mean the vagina is more susceptible to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria like Gardneralla.  

Does Swimming Make BV Worse?

Some factors related to swimming that could potentially exacerbate BV symptoms or contribute to its development.

Swimming With BV: Should You Do It?

Yes, you can go swimming if you have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), but it's important to change out of wet swimwear promptly after swimming to avoid creating a damp environment that can exacerbate the condition. Maintaining good personal hygiene and ensuring the cleanliness of the swimming area are also important considerations.

How to Know if You Have BV? 

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and schedule a test for BV. That being said, research has shown that less than 20% of women with BV experience symptoms, meaning just over 80% of women with BV do not know that they are infected. 

To avoid any serious complications from an untreated BV infection, ensure you get yourself tested annually.   

How to Prevent BV? 

Preventing BV is all about maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria within the vaginal microbiome. The following are some guidelines to help:

  • To keep the vagina clean and healthy, refrain from douching. Instead, wash your genitals every day with warm water and unscented soap. Then pat dry instead of rubbing, and never use a damp towel to dry the vagina 
  • Use regular, non-fragranced menstrual products to avoid pH imbalances that can result in BV infections
  • If you are prone to recurring BV infections after intercourse, use a condom every time you have sex
  • Use condoms with new male partners until you have both been tested.  
  • If you are having intercourse with several partners, ensure you use condoms with each one and always wash your genitals with warm water and unscented soap after sex. 
  • When taking antibiotics for another condition, take a probiotic with it to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut and the vaginal microbiome. 
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear instead of synthetic materials to avoid the build of moisture around the genitals where harmful bacteria can thrive. 
  • Remove swimsuits immediately after swimming or being in the hot tub and wash the genitals with warm water and unscented soap before patting dry with a clean towel. 

How is BV Treated?

If you have been diagnosed with BV, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria and the infection should clear within 7-10 days. Due to the possibility that antibiotics can kill beneficial bacteria as well as harmful bacteria, female health experts now recommend taking a probiotic with antibiotics for BV for the best results. 

Women who suffer from recurring BV infections are also advised to use a natural remedy called Boric Acid in conjunction with antibiotics and probiotics. Containing antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, boric acid has been proven to rebalance the vaginal microbiome after vaginal infections. 


What Other Daily Habits Can Upset the Vaginal Microbiome to Cause BV?

Although scientists have not yet pinpointed the exact cause of BV, it is suspected that some women might produce excess amounts of the bacteria that cause it. Studies have also determined that certain lifestyle choices are known to contribute to the overgrowth of the harmful bacteria that cause BV. 

  • Using Synthetic or Scented Vaginal Products 
  • Taking Antibiotics
  • Unprotected Sex 
  • New Sexual Partners or Multiple Sexual Partners
  • Hormone Fluctuations





Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the result of a disruption to the natural balance of good and bad bacteria within the vagina. Although the exact cause of BV is unknown, unprotected sexual activity, douching, and low estrogen levels during hormone fluctuations are known contributors.

Swimming does not cause BV, however, the chlorine used to clean swimming pools can increase the risk of getting BV by killing the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in the vaginal microbiome.  


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Bacterial Vaginosis -

Cleveland Clinic – Bacterial Vaginosis: Causes & Symptoms -

Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology - The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial Vaginosis -

National Library of Medicine - The influence of sexual activity on the vaginal microbiota and Gardnerella vaginalis clade diversity in young women - https://www -

National Library of Medicine - Bacterial vaginal flora in relation to changing estrogen levels -

VeryWell Health - Bacterial Vaginosis and Menopause: What’s the Link? -

National Library of Medicine - The Role of Probiotics in Vaginal Health -

Journal of The American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association - Boric Acid Addition to Suppressive Antimicrobial Therapy for Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis -