Objectives: To examine the frequency of post-antibiotic vulvovaginitis (PAV); describe how women prevent and treat PAV; and determine whether concern about PAV affects their decisions about taking antibiotics.
Design: Cross-sectional survey using a written questionnaire.
Setting and participants: Five general practice waiting rooms in north-western Melbourne, in February 2000. 1298 women aged 18-70 years were surveyed.
Main outcome measures: Self-reported symptoms and management of vulvovaginitis and PAV.
Results: The response rate was 86%. Thirty-five per cent of women reported ever having PAV and 73% reported ever having symptoms suggestive of vulvovaginal candidiasis. Antifungal medications and lactobacillus products or yoghurt were most popular for both prevention (49%, 40%) and treatment (63%, 43%) of PAV. Other home remedies such as tea tree oil, vinegar, and dietary and clothing modification were infrequently used by the women surveyed. Twenty-three per cent of women who had taken antibiotics in the previous month had experienced symptoms of vulvovaginitis. Of women who had ever had vulvovaginitis, 35% were moderately to very concerned about developing PAV when prescribed antibiotics. Because of this concern, around a fifth of these women would not take prescribed antibiotics.
Conclusions: Concern about PAV affects women's decision-making regarding antibiotic use. Many women use unproven complementary therapies to prevent or treat PAV. When prescribing antibiotics, doctors should discuss the risks of PAV and its management with patients.