That's What I Said! Vaseline is Nasty!

I ran across this article on health.com yesterday. It's a report on a small study in Los Angeles that looked at the products women use vaginally. The two things they looked at were petroleum jelly (aka vaseline) and douches. Turns out, I've been right all along, these things are nasty. The women in the study who used petroleum jelly inside the vagina were more than twice as likely to have bacterial vaginosis as women who did not. Bacterial Vaginosis is not that big a deal in and of itself. It happens when the ph balance of the vagina is upset and becomes more acidic than alkaline. Women may not notice that at all but they may notice feeling dryer and somewhat itchy. The big problem is that bacterial vaginosis is basically an unhealthy vaginal environment and that means that it doesn't produce natural and healthy bacteria in the same way and it may allow the growth of bacteria that cause infections. Women who get yeast infections and urinary tract infections easily will have some major issues with that.

What blows my mind about the study is that 45% of the women said that they use douches. I shake my head and sigh. I want to believe that we have moved far away from the 1970's Summer's Eve commercials that made women feel like their beautiful vulvas and vaginas are smelly stinkholes that must be sanitized. I know that these products still exist and I know that marketing exists but somehow I just thought that most women understand now that they don't need to 'freshen' their ladyparts. They really do clean and freshen themselves. There are multitudes of organisms living in there that keep it ship shape, when left to their own devices. But I guess I was wrong. It seems a lot of women don't know that. We are all to susceptible to the social influence and shaming that goes along with these products. The problem is, as this study shows, the use of douches actually increases the chance of infection. It upsets the ph balance and destroys those healthy bacteria. The study found more incidence of bacterial vaginosis among women who use douches too.

The good news in this little study was that women who use personal lubricants did not have an increased incidence of bacterial vaginosis. As I have been saying for many years, lubes are good. Well, not all lubes are good, there are some nasty ones. But most water-based and silicone lubricants are gentle and safe. They are the best choice for vaginal moisturizing or for using during partner and solo sex play.

All of this just really makes me wonder why this knowledge isn't more common. They teach hygiene in grade school. We learn the basics of taking care of our health. Why isn't this information included? Even in sex education classes, they don't talk about this. Somehow we just expect women to know what to do. It would be perfectly natural and extremely helpful to take a few minutes out of the 'The Day Suzy Got Her Period' class to explain what you should and should not put inside your vagina. So many young girls are so self-conscious that they worry excessively that they are dirty and smelly - and they see a lot of ads around them that reinforce that belief. Why can't we just take some time to explain that the inside of the vagina is not smelly and does not need to be cleaned, no matter what you see in Seventeen magazine? We just need to know that our vaginas will take care of themselves and all we need to do is wash and rinse the outside - the vulva and surrounding area - with a gentle body soap. We don't need feminine wash and wipes, just plain soap.

Sadly, we seem to be so afraid of women's bodies that we won't sit the girls down and give them the information they really need about taking care of themselves.

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