Study finds concerning connection between feminine hygiene products and infection

April 16, 2018, University of Guelph
U of G study finds concerning connection between feminine hygiene products and infection
Professor Keiran O'Doherty. Credit: University of Guelph

Vaginal hygiene products have been used by 95 per cent of Canadian women, but they likely do more harm than good, according to a University of Guelph study.

The first-ever study revealed that women who use these products are three times more likely to experience some type of . In some cases it may be women purchased the product to address an existing vaginal concern.

"This study establishes a baseline of what Canadian women do with regard to their vaginal and identifies concerning correlations that researchers can now look into more closely," said psychology professor Kieran O'Doherty, the study's lead investigator.

Published in the journal BMC Women's Health, the study surveyed nearly 1,500 Canadian women about their vaginal health practices and products, and how often they experienced problems.

"While research has shown douching can have negative impacts on vaginal health, little was known about the dozens of other products out there," said O'Doherty.

The most commonly used products included anti-itch creams, moisturizers and lubricants, and feminine wipes. The results connected certain products with specific infections.

"The study does not establish whether it is the products causing the infections or whether women are using the products in an attempt to address the ," said O'Doherty. "However, the results do provide important evidence for strong correlations that need further research."

For example, women who used gel sanitizers were eight times more likely to have a yeast infection and almost 20 times more likely to have a .

Women using feminine washes or gels were almost 3 ½ times more likely to have a bacterial infection and 2 ½ times more likely to report a .

Participants using feminine wipes were twice as likely to have a urinary tract infection, and those using lubricants or moisturizers were 2 ½ times as likely to have a .

O'Doherty said emerging medical research has linked disruption of vaginal microbial systems with health problems.

"These products may be preventing the growth of the healthy bacteria required to fight off infection."

Pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, reduced fertility, ectopic and pre-term pregnancies, and bacterial and sexually transmitted infections are among the problems related to an abnormal vaginal microbiome, he said.

Vaginal hygiene products are a $2-billion industry in North America.

In a previous study published recently, O'Doherty and a team of researchers looked at why Canadian women use these products. They found women are unaware of the potential health concerns linked to these products and believe the items will make them feel clean and fresh.

"Our society has constructed female genitalia as unclean, and the marketing of vaginal hygiene products as something need to attain the ideal is contributing to the problem. These products are viewed as a physical need rather than a choice. But the reality is, there are potential health risks to using these products."

Explore further: Women's wellness: vaginal yeast infections

More information: Sara E. Crann et al, Vaginal health and hygiene practices and product use in Canada: a national cross-sectional survey, BMC Women's Health (2018). DOI: 10.1186/s12905-018-0543-y

Related Stories

Women's wellness: vaginal yeast infections

November 25, 2016
A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva - the tissues at the vaginal opening. It's a type of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina. ...

Certain vaginal bacteria may be linked with increased risk of chlamydia

September 25, 2017
The presence of specific types of vaginal bacteria may be associated with an increased risk for chlamydia infection, finds a small, but well powered study published online in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Why vagina cleaning fads are unnecessary and harmful

December 13, 2017
A staggering variety of so-called feminine hygiene products seek to help with "vaginal odour" and discharge, and "keep you fresh". From deodorants to cucumber cleanses, scented "panty liners", and the newest fad "vaginal ...

Vaginal estrogen tablets, moisturizers and placebo gel all can improve vaginal discomfort

March 19, 2018
A clinical trial comparing two treatments for postmenopausal vaginal discomfort - low-dose vaginal estrogen and a vaginal moisturizer - to placebo treatments found that both produced symptom improvements similar to those ...

Vaginal douches may expose women to harmful phthalate chemicals

July 14, 2015
Women who use feminine care products called douches may increase their exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates—and black women may be at particularly high risk due to frequent use, according to a study published ...

Petroleum jelly tied to vaginal infection risk in study

March 8, 2013
(HealthDay)—Women who use petroleum jelly vaginally may put themselves at risk of a common infection called bacterial vaginosis, a small study suggests.

Recommended for you

Review finds more effective drugs to stop bleeding after childbirth

April 26, 2018
New evidence from a Cochrane review published today, led by a University of Birmingham scientist, suggests that alternative drugs may be more effective than the standard drug currently used to stop women bleeding after childbirth.

Antibody 'cocktail' can prevent Zika infection but is not effective for treatment of fetuses

April 26, 2018
A "cocktail" of monoclonal antibodies that can prevent Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in primates was not effective for treatment of fetuses, according to a new collaborative study led by a University of Miami Miller School ...

Inducing labor at 39 weeks reduces risks of C-section and other complications

April 25, 2018
It's better to induce than to watch and wait. That's the result of a new study published in PLOS ONE.

E. coli—are we measuring the wrong thing?

April 25, 2018
A sepsis awareness and management programme has demonstrated overall success in terms of improved sepsis detection, but has led to an increase in the number of E. coli blood stream infection cases presented, calling into ...

Malaria study reveals gene variants linked to risk of disease

April 25, 2018
Many people of African heritage are protected against malaria by inheriting a particular version of a gene, a large-scale study has shown.

Commonly prescribed heartburn drug linked to pneumonia in older adults

April 24, 2018
Researchers at the University of Exeter have found a statistical link between pneumonia in older people and a group of medicines commonly used to neutralise stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers. Although ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.