A recent study completed at the University of Guelph has discovered a link between feminine hygiene products and vaginal infections.
The study, published in BMC Women’s Health, consisted of an online sample of over 1,400 Canadian women over the age of 18, and found that 95% of the respondents use products in and around the vaginal area, from commercial and homemade products, to naturopathic remedies. Most women have purchased some type of product for use either externally or internally.
Women are doing all kinds of things to their genitals, from bleaching to waxing to tattooing.
Participants who are using anti-itch creams are 18 times more likely to report yeast infections. Participants who reported using baby wipes are 60% more likely to report experiencing a UTI.
Reading this study has left me with all sorts of reminders of my own years trying to maintain a standard of cleanliness that I believed could only be bought.
After moving away from home to study at university, I began shopping for my own toiletries. I remember once showering and noticing that my roommate had a vaginal soap; a whole new world revealed itself to me that day. I thought that I had spent years living in the dark ages, because I had never heard of a soap specially designed to clean your vagina.
After a quick stop at the drug store, I left with a bag full of feminine powders, soaps, and cleansers. I figured I had been incorrectly educated on cleaning myself, and this was how I would ensure I maintained the utmost cleanliness. Little did I know I was disrupting the healthy microbiome in and around my vagina, and I eventually suffered from multiple yeast infections.
When my doctor asked me what products I was using daily, I discovered how completely wrong I was to go down the rabbit hole of vaginal cleaners. Once I stopped using the cleaners, I found relief and have not experienced a yeast or bladder infection since.
We live in a culture that views women’s natural bodies as unclean. We wax away our womanliness, wash away our scent, and work hard to keep ourselves smelling more like a garden and less like the that women we are.
Studies like this have the opportunity to profoundly impact the way that culture, and women, view our bodies and cleaning practices. The more we allow ourselves to live in the body we have, free of consumerism and commercial products, the more our bodies will be free to do the job they are perfectly capable of.
For me, this is a reminder to teach my own daughters about vaginal health and avoiding the myth that our bodies need scents and soaps to be clean. I hope that research continues and awareness spreads.
Put the cleanser down. Your body is perfect just as it is.