(HealthDay News) – Intravaginal insertion of over-the-counter products is linked to an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis, according to a study published online March 6 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Joelle M. Brown, PhD, MPH, from the University of California and the AIDS Research Alliance of America in Los Angeles, and colleagues recruited and followed 141 sexually active women, aged 18–65 years. Participants completed self-administered questionnaires at enrollment and at 12 months relating to demographics, sexual behavior, vaginal symptoms, and intravaginal practices over the past month. Nugent criteria and DNA probe were used to diagnose bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis infection, respectively, at each visit.

The researchers found that 66% of participants reported an intravaginal practice over the past month, with almost half reporting insertion of an intravaginal product (other than tampons) and intravaginal washing (49% and 45%, respectively). Insertion of commercial sexual lubricants (70%), petroleum jelly (17%), and oils (13%) were the most commonly reported practices. Intravaginal use of oils was significantly associated with Candida species colonization (44.4% vs. 5%) in univariable analysis. Women reporting intravaginal use of petroleum jelly over the past month were significantly more likely to test positive for bacterial vaginosis in multivariable analysis (adjusted relative risk, 2.2).

“The context, motivations for, and effects of intravaginal products and practices on vaginal health are of concern and warrant further study,” write the authors.

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