Lubricants and Vaginal Infections
Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal infection that occurs when the normal balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vaginal bacteria is disrupted. Some symptoms include pain, discharge, and itching or burning sensations. There are some women, however, who experience no symptoms and the infection usually causes no long-term problems. It is still important to consider the fact that bacterial vaginosis can make women more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility.
Petroleum Jelly and Other Lubricants
The use of lubricants, any slippery solution found in your medicine cabinet or kitchen, might put you at risk for vaginal infections. A study out of UCLA has been found that those who used petroleum jelly vaginally increased their risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. This 2-year study consisted of 141 sexually active women between the ages of 18 to 65. Those who were reported to use oils inside the vagina had a 32% increased risk for yeast infection.
Petroleum jelly, oils, and other solutions used as lubricants change the delicate balance of vaginal flora as well as the acidity. Any changes in that balance can trigger an infection. Petroleum jelly, due to its alkalinic properties, might promote the growth of bad bacteria. An acidic vaginal environment is what actually protects women from colonization of abnormal organisms. Oils, on the other hand, do not rinse off easily and they also trap bacteria.
Douching is now also linked to an increased risk of vaginal infections. This practice is known to disrupt the natural vaginal ecology, according to a medical expert. Several studies have also found growing evidence that some products that are meant for delicate areas – including lubricants and other cleaning products – can actually damage vaginal tissues. They might also increase the risk for more serious infections. If any infection is left untreated, it can cause more infection and fertility issues.
The use of lubricants is still not something completely prohibited. Some people find it more comfortable to have sexual intercourse with the help of lubricants. Larger studies are still needed to confirm the links between vaginal infections and the use of lubricants or douching as well as to understand how certain products can affect women’s health if used vaginally.
What should be done, however, is to consult your healthcare providers first before using any product. Your doctor will be able to tell you if the product you want to use is known to be safe vaginally.