Skip to content

    Women's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Petroleum Jelly Tied to Vaginal Infection Risk

    Use of such products doubled odds of bacterial vaginosis, researchers find

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

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

    Prior studies have linked douching to ill effects, including bacterial vaginosis, and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic inflammatory disease. But little research has been conducted on the possible effects of other products some women use vaginally, said Joelle Brown, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the new study.

    She and her colleagues found that of 141 Los Angeles women they studied, half said they'd used some type of over-the-counter product vaginally in the past month, including sexual lubricants, petroleum jelly and baby oil. Almost as many, 45 percent, reported douching.

    When the researchers tested the women for infections, they found that those who'd used petroleum jelly in the past month were more than twice as likely as non-users to have bacterial vaginosis.

    Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the normal balance between "good" and "bad" bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. The symptoms include discharge, pain, itching or burning -- but most women have no symptoms, and the infection usually causes no long-term problems.

    Still, bacterial vaginosis can make women more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. It also sometimes leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility.

    The new findings, reported in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, do not prove that petroleum jelly directly increased women's risk of bacterial vaginosis.

    But it's possible, said Dr. Sten Vermund, director of the Institute for Global Health at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn.

    Petroleum jelly might promote the growth of bad bacteria because of its "alkaline properties," explained Vermund, who was not involved in the study.

    "An acidic vaginal environment is what protects women from colonization from abnormal organisms," Vermund said.

    He noted that many studies have now linked douching to an increased risk of vaginal infections. And that may be because the practice "disrupts the natural vaginal ecology," Vermund said.

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    period
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    estrogen gene
    Quiz
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz