Why using feminine wash, douching is dangerous to vagina health

April 27, 2024

A Professor of Clinical Microbiology, Mohammed Manga, has warned women against indulging in practices that can harm the vagina, saying that it’s one of the major causes of bacterial vaginosis.

Other intravaginal practices frowned upon include douching, the use of feminine wash, and antiseptic soap to wash the vagina.

According to Cleveland Clinic, an online health blog, bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection that happens when some normal bacteria that live in the vagina overgrow, causing a bacterial imbalance.

It noted that symptoms include an off-white vaginal discharge that smells ‘fishy’.

Manga, who is from the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Basic Clinical Sciences, College of Medical Sciences, gave the warning during the seventh inaugural lecture at Gombe State University, titled, ‘A privileged nomadic microbial warrior: Battles in health and medical education’.

According to him, there was a need for proper education, awareness, safe sexual practices, and the availability of affordable, accessible, and convenient healthcare manned by competent practitioners, stressing that it’s required to diagnose and optimally manage sexually transmitted infections.

Manga said, “Bacterial vaginosis, which is the most common presentation or diagnosis, is largely preventable with proper education, awareness, and good hygienic practices. Our observations show that many women engage in different intravaginal practices for various reasons.

“Douching, use of feminine wash and antiseptic soaps/solutions, intravaginal application of perfumes, and numerous traditional concoctions are the major risk factors for the development of bacterial vaginosis.

“This is frequently worsened by wrong diagnosis and the generous use of broad-spectrum antibiotics among many uninformed healthcare workers.

“Bacterial vaginosis, even though not classically considered an STI, is a prelude to most of them and predisposes the patient to many other complications, including gynecologic/obstetric complications such as cervicitis, salpingitis, endometritis, post-operative infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, premature rupture of membranes, preterm deliveries, chorioamnionitis, and postpartum endometritis.”

While lamenting the prevalence of Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer, Manga, identified a low level of education, multiple sexual partners, and many others as factors.

“Cancer is very high in our setting. Among women who presented for cervical screening in Gombe, almost half, 48.1 per cent, were carrying the virus, which is more likely to be persistent based on their mean age of 39.6 ± 10.4 years. The five most predominant genotypes based on genomic sequencing were 18 (44.7 per cent), 16 (13.2 per cent), 33 (7.9 per cent), 31 (5.3 per cent), and 35 (5.3 per cent).

“Risk factors for HPV infection in our setting were low levels of education, younger age at sexual debut, high parity, multiple numbers of lifetime sexual partners, younger age at first pregnancy, and a history of other malignancies.

“Among HIV-positive women in north-central Nigeria, we found an overall HPV prevalence of 54.1 per cent, and premalignant lesions were higher among those with lower CD4 counts. In comparing HPV testing with cervical cytology for screening among the participants, we observed that almost half, 47.6 per cent, of the women with normal cytology were positive for HPV.

“This further highlights the advantage of HPV testing over cytology for cervical cancer screening. While HPV testing detects the virus responsible for cervical cancer, the other testing methods become relevant when premalignant lesions are already established,” he added.

He called for a multidisciplinary approach and interprofessional collaborations from diverse areas of expertise, which is the hallmark of modern microbiology and should be encouraged. “Connections between experts in environmental microbiology, infectious disease specialists, engineers, and applied physicists will be of immense help.

“Patient care in hospitals should optimally utilize available microbiological services and minimize over-reliance on empirical therapy to reduce antimicrobial resistance and ensure patient safety.

“Clinicians should trust, challenge, and encourage the laboratories and microbial pathologists in low-resource settings to become more relevant in patient care and other clinical activities. I equally implore us to reciprocate.”

On his part, Vice Chancellor Gombe State University Professor Aliyu El-Nafaty commended the lecturer for the presentation.

He noted that Manga had paid his dues, saying, “Inaugural lectures give newly promoted professors the opportunity needed to share the knowledge they have generated.

“It usually serves as motivation for those coming behind, especially young ones. We will continue to organize this for the interest of the students and the general public.”


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