Women using certain vaginal hygiene products are three times more likely to have vaginal infections, according to a survey conducted by the University of Guelph in Ontario. It was already known that vaginal douching increases the risk of infections and other side effects and is therefore often discouraged by doctors. The new Canadian study now suggests that many feminine hygiene products may also increase health risks.
Researcher in Social Psychology, Kieran O’Doherty, the leading author of the study, estimates that there are strong correlations between the use of these products and the risk of infections that would be multiplied by 300%.
Yeast vaginitis is a fairly common problem among Canadian women, as two out of three women will suffer from it during their lifetime. The vaginal wall is fragile and has its own biochemical balance, and many factors can destabilize it and lead to complications.
Risks of infections are sometimes even multiplying by 8 or 20
Women who used gels, either externally or internally, were 800% more likely to have a yeast infection and were 2,000% more likely to have bacterial vaginosis and that makes sure that the natural balance of the vaginal bacterial flora is disrupted.
The study, published in the journal “BMC Women’s Health”, further reveals that women using moisturizers and vaginal lubricants are 2.5 times more likely to report a yeast infection and 50% more likely to develop a urinary tract infection than those who do not use it.
Women who reported to use vaginal cleansers were almost 3.5 times more likely to report a bacterial infection and 2.5 times more likely to report a urinary tract infection.
On the other hand, women’s vaginal wet wipes were associated with twice the risk of urinary tract infection.
Why do the vaginal hygiene products increase the risk of vaginal infections?
Kieran O’Doherty explains that these products can prevent the growth of healthy bacteria needed to fight infections. “Pelvic inflammatory diseases, cervical cancer, fertility disorders, ectopic pregnancies and premature births, as well as bacterial or sexually transmitted infections, are some of the problems associated with abnormal vaginal flora,” the specialist added.
However, although the study found a link between the use of vaginal hygiene products and vaginal infections, it can not determine if they are the direct cause.
Dr. Chelsea Elwood, a specialist in reproductive infectious diseases at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Center, who did not participate in the research, said that “it’s a bit of a conversation about the egg or the chicken – do women have a yeast infection, then they turn to the vaginal moisturizers because they believe it will help or do they use the vaginal moisturizer daily, then contract a yeast infection because the product disrupts what is normally there?”
The natural vaginal bacterial flora should not be altered by using vaginal care products
This kind of study, however, cannot give a clear answer to the question above but it permits researchers to consider that this topic has to be exploited further and that all these vaginal care products given (even medically prescribed) to women may not be, in reality, as benign as they claim to be.
As a general rule, Ms. Elwood recommends her women patients not use vaginal lubricants, creams against itches, or vaginal wipes, or vaginal cleansers. She, instead, encourages her women patients to leave alone the natural balance of the bacterial flora in the vagina’s area.
In conclusion, this new study revealed that vaginal hygiene products, including everything from lubricants and itches creams to cleansers and vaginal wipes, are not as beneficial as they claim in cases of healthy women and may also cause vaginal infections, yeast vaginitis, and urinary tract infection, even though a direct link has not been established during the research.