Maternal health experts have cautioned women against using alum for vagina tightening, warning that it could lead to infection and infertility.
The experts disclosed this in exclusive interviews with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that using alum to wash the vagina cannot restore lost virginity.
Alum is an inorganic chemical compound that is generally made up of water molecules, aluminum or other metals, and sulfates.
An Associate Professor and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku/Ozalla, Enugu State, Dr. Uche Agu, told our correspondent that the practice is a misconception by some women who think using alum to wash the vagina will make it tight and give them a sense of virginity.
According to him, using alum to wash the vagina cannot regrow a ruptured or broken hymen, stressing that virginity is a thing of the mind.
Dr. Agu said, “Using alum to wash the vagina is a misconception by some women that it gives them a sense of tightness and a sense of virginity. But it is just a misconception and deceit because it doesn’t mean anything.
“It is very dangerous because alum can be corrosive and cause some burning and irritation of the vaginal wall.
“It can also cause scarring and might even block or narrow the place terribly that the vaginal might require some surgical interventions to open it up.
“So, it is a very bad practice. It does not help anyone, rather it is dangerous. When you are using that substance on the vagina, by the time it erodes the walls of the vagina, causing burning, then infection can set in. That infection can spread up to the uterus and cause infertility in the future.”
According to him, the infection that might arise from the use of alum in washing the vagina can block the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.
The gynecologist also warned that such a harmful practice could lead to complications in pregnancy if the woman escapes infertility.
“If the woman eventually gets pregnant and the vagina is narrowed, it will be difficult for a baby to pass through a narrow canal.
“So, if the baby eventually passes through there, it often causes a lot of injury to that area and can result in complications like vaginal fistula.
“And when the baby is unable to pass there, it can result in surgical delivery and cesarean section because that place is narrowed. That is the complication in childbearing,” Dr. Agu said.
The gynaecologist reiterated that washing the vagina with alum would not recreate a lost hymen.
Continuing, he said, “Once the hymen is broken, depending on the level of breakage or laceration, the hymen can heal if it is a slight laceration and nobody knows that anything has gone in there.
“There is one called complete laceration. If it is completely transected, that is when the whole feature of the hymen is lacerated, it does not heal. Again, if it is a partial laceration, it can heal.
“But in a situation where one has lost virginity over some time, the hymen has been torn terribly due to recurrent sexual intercourse leading to further diminishing of the size of the hymen, it does not regrow at all.”
In a 2022 article published by Gynaecology and Obstetrics Clinical Medicine in Science Direct, the authors said several vaginal practices put women at higher risk for reproductive tract infections.
Science Direct is a website that provides access to scientific and medical publications.
The researchers noted that worldwide, women perform a variety of vaginal practices to enhance their hygiene and sexual health.
“Some of the products commonly used include intravaginal cleaning (douching or washing with liquids), intravaginal and extra vaginal wiping, and intravaginal insertion of substances that dry or tighten the vagina and boost sexual pleasure.
“However, the standard vaginal pH of 4.5, essential for maintaining a healthy vaginal immune barrier, can be disturbed by such feminine practice.
“Products used may affect the composition of the usual vaginal microbiome through alteration of pH or direct bactericidal effects.
“We should continue to increase awareness to counter the misinformation resulting from marketing campaigns and common misconceptions,” the researchers said.
Also speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, a Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Modupe Adedeji, said washing the vaginal with alum could introduce infections to the vaginal and cause more serious health problems.
Dr. Adedeji advised women not to use anything that will tamper with the normal vaginal environment.
“But some people will go and pick something from the shelf without reading the content and it will start destroying the normal vaginal environment.
“They can introduce bacteria to the area thereby compounding the problem. In the end, they end up with an infection,” she said.