Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Petroleum Jelly Tied to Vaginal Infection Risk

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


Normally, the vagina predominantly contains "good" bacteria that produce hydrogen peroxide. And experts say that this natural environment "cleans" the vagina; women do not need special products to do it.

Yet many women continue to douche, using products that may contain irritating antiseptics and fragrances. Up to 40 percent of U.S. women aged 18 to 44 douche regularly, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The frequency with which American women use unnecessary and harmful intravaginal products is unfortunate," Vermund said.

It's not certain that douching, itself, causes infections, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises women against the practice.

The current findings are based on a group of racially diverse women who agreed to screening for sexually transmitted diseases. Slightly more than one-quarter were HIV-positive.

Overall, Brown's team found, 21 percent of the women had bacterial vaginosis, and 6 percent had a yeast infection. Women who'd used petroleum jelly in the past month were 2.2 times more likely to have bacterial vaginosis than non-users. That was with other factors, including race, age and douching habits, taken into account.

It did not appear that women were using the product because of symptoms. Women with the infection were no more likely to report vaginal symptoms than other women were. And none of those with symptoms said they used petroleum jelly for relief.

In contrast to those findings, douching was not linked to bacterial vaginosis risk in the study.

Brown said this could be the result of having only a small number of women in the study "and the fact that women used various substances for intravaginal washing -- which undoubtedly varied substantially in their chemical constituents and concentrations."

Similarly, sexual lubricants were not linked to increased odds of bacterial vaginosis. That finding echoes what past studies have found, Vermund said, so women who need sexual lubricants for comfort can take some reassurance, he noted.

Still, Brown said that larger studies are needed to confirm these findings, and to understand how various products can affect women's health if they are used vaginally.

For now, she recommended that women ask questions before using any product vaginally. "Women should talk with their health care providers and ask them if the products they are using inside their vagina are known to be safe for use in the vagina," Brown said.

1 | 2

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.
Is it menopause or something else?
woman in bathtub
bp app on smartwatch and phone
estrogen gene

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


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

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