Sunday, October 7, 2012
Walk through your local pharmacy, and you will find at least a full aisle dedicated to women’s health products. Some of these products can make your life much more clean, comfortable, and healthy – tampons, sanitary pads, vaginal lubricants, and condoms to name a few. There are ovulation predictor kits to help you determine when you are most fertile, and there are pregnancy tests to tell you when don’t need to use those ovulation predictor kits anymore. But do not be tricked into thinking that all of the products on those shelves are necessary, or that they are even good for you. There are a few over-the-counter products that I think can actually cause harm to women and should be removed from the shelves forever. But, before we talk about those products, let us quickly review the vaginal ecosystem.
The vagina contains lactobacilli – “good bacteria” – that produce lactic acid and maintain an acidic environment. This keeps “bad bacteria” from colonizing and causing infection. The vagina is self-sustaining and self-cleaning. It does not require maintenance to keep it healthy.
The healthy vagina produces fluid and mucus that constantly bathes the vaginal walls, removing dead skin and keeping the tissue lubricated. All women experience some vaginal discharge as this fluid exits the body. Normal vaginal discharge is clear or creamy white, it usually has no odor, and it does not cause discomfort. This discharge is a normal function of vaginal hygiene.
When a woman experiences that “not-so-fresh feeling”, it probably means she is having a discharge that itches, burns, or has a foul odor, and these are signs of infection. Getting the vagina back to normal usually requires a prescription - not an over-the-counter spray or cream that will mask the symptoms. If you accidentally chopped off your finger, would you try to put it back on using band-aids? Probably not. But, this is what you are doing when you “just don’t feel like yourself” and use an over-the-counter douche or cream.
Which brings us to that list of over-the-counter hygiene products available to women that mask symptoms and serve no purpose in maintaining a healthy vagina:
I will say it again: the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It does not require regular rinsing with a douche – scented, unscented, vinegar, any kind. Vaginal douches rinse away the lactobacilli that keeps the vagina healthy, removing your body’s natural defense system. If you didn’t have an infection already, then you probably will after douching. If you are just not feeling that fresh, then you are better off seeing your Ob/Gyn provider because chances are, you need a prescription.
If you are itching, you have an infection; it is called vaginitis. Vaginitis can be caused by yeast, bacteria, or a sexually transmitted disease. See your Ob/Gyn provider. She can properly diagnose you and get you the treatment that you need. Vagisil just takes care of the symptoms, not the infection.
Again, if you have an odor that has to be covered with a scented feminine spray, then you probably have an infection. Not to mention the fact that the vulva – the exterior structures of your anatomy – is very sensitive to scents and dyes in products. Spraying a perfumed deodorant on your vulva can cause irritation and make your situation worse.
Any Scented Body Wash or Feminine Wash
See FDS Spray above.
Bottom line: if you feel like you need to deep-clean, deodorize, or calm an itch, don’t hit the pharmacy. Call you health care provider. Chances are, you need more than just a bandaid.
Written by: Laurie H Lee, WHNP