Genital hygiene and infections

Women with bacterial vaginosis (BV) and/or vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) were significantly less likely to use intimate soap and moist wipes after urination compared to healthy women without any vulvovaginal symptoms, according to a cross-sectional study published in the journal Revista Brasileira de Ginecologia e Obstetricia.

The study assessed 166 healthy controls and 141 reproductive-aged women diagnosed with either BV (n = 72), VVC (n = 61) or both (n = 8).

The study was conducted between February 2013 and May 2014 at Hospital da Mulher, a low-income public hospital in Campinas, a city located in São Paulo state.

Participants underwent gynecological and laboratory tests, plus filled out a genital hygiene questionnaire.

The women had a mean age of 33 years, a body mass index (BMI) of 22.2 kg/m2, 10.2 years of schooling and one pregnancy.

In addition, 83.7% of women reported having a steady sex partner and 7.8% had an eventual sex partner, but 8.5% reported having no sex partner in the past 6 months.

The use of intimate soap (liquid and slightly acid soap) for daily hygiene and moist wipes use for hygiene after urination were significantly more common among women without VVC and/or BV. For soap, the odds ratio (OR) was 0.67, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.75 to 0.98 (P = 0.04), whereas for wipes the OR was 0.24, 95% CI: 0.05 to 0.52 (P = 0.01).

The finding of moist wipes after urination as a more frequent habit of women without genital infections “agrees with literature, which sustains the use of moist wipe as safe and beneficial to genital health,” wrote the authors. “Because of its moist characteristic, these wipes might be more efficient at promoting genital hygiene than regular disposable toilet paper.”

The study also found that the use of bactericidal soap for daily genital hygiene was much more prevalent in women with VVC and/or BV: OR = 5.47; 95% CI: 2.17 to 13.8 (P = 0.001).

However, mean time away from home, number of baths per day, frequency of genital hygiene, and vaginal douching or genital hygiene after sexual intercourse did not differ between the two groups.

Anal sex 30 days preceding an interview was reported by 30.2% of women in the vulvovaginal disorder (VD) group and by 8.8% in the group without VD (P < 0.0001).

Anal hygiene was practiced incorrectly (from back to front) by 6.6% of the VD-negative group and by 11.3% of the VD- positive group, although this difference was not statistically significant.

Anal sex or the use of sex toys correlated to the presence of BV. For anal sex, the OR was 2.33, 95% CI: 1.08 to 5.05 (P < 0.001), while for sex toys the OR and CI were the same as for anal sex (P < 0.03).

Among participants reporting anal sex or sex toys in the last 30 days, only 6.45% and 4%, respectively, used condoms regularly.

Frequency of sexual intercourse, oral sex practice and lubricant use were statistically similar between those with and without VDs.

Overall, 95% of participants reported genital hair removal, despite the majority believing the practice was probably harmful to genital health.

Reference

  1. Bardin MG, Giraldo PC, Benetti-Pinto CL, et al. Habits of genital hygiene and sexual activity among women with bacterial vaginosis and/or vulvovaginal candidiasis. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet. 2022; 44(2):169–177.