Two-thirds of women in a new U.S. study reported that they regularly use cleansers, lubricants, oils or petroleum jelly intravaginally, according to Reuters Health.
The problem with this? Some of the products were linked to a higher chance of common vaginal infections.
Based on lab tests, women who used products not intended for vaginal insertion, such as oils and petroleum jelly, were more likely to have yeast and bacterial infections. These findings were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, said Reuters Health.
Little research has been conducted on the possible effects of over-the-counter products that some women use vaginally, said Joelle Brown. Brown is a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study wrote HealthDay.com.
Brown and her colleagues found of 141 Los Angeles women that they studied, half reported they'd used some type of over-the-counter product vaginally in the past month, including sexual lubricants, petroleum jelly and baby oil, said WebMD.
The researcher found that women who use petroleum jelly intravaginally are more than twice as likely to develop a bacterial vaginal infection (bacterial vaginosis) than women who do not, wrote Examiner.com.
Reuters Health added that 44 percent of women who reported using intravaginal oils tested positive for candida, the fungus that causes yeast infections, compared to 5 percent of women who did not use oils.
Bacterial vaginosis symptoms include discharge, pain, itching or burning, said WebMD. Most women have no symptoms, and the infection usually causes no long-term problems. It occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted.
However the new findings do not prove that petroleum jelly directly increased women's risk of bacterial vaginosis, wrote WebMD.
Petroleum jelly might promote the growth of bad bacteria because of its "alkaline properties," wrote HealthDay.com. An acidic vaginal environment is what protects women from colonization from abnormal organisms.