Various vaginal practices have taken the world by storm, especially in the digital age where marketing has gotten so much easier.
Intimate detergents, soaps, and cleansing bars were marketed as feminine hygiene products and became increasingly popular, much to the detriment of the vagina, warned Dr. Mpume Zenda.
Zenda is an obstetrician, gynecologist, and sexologist, known to many as @dr.gynae on Instagram.
The specialist said that women were being sold an idea of what vaginas should be like. “Because we don’t know any better, we fall for it. The vagina is fine as it is. “
Zenda said the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. “It doesn’t take more than water, a shower or a bath once or twice a day.”
She said, “Feminine hygiene products imply that something is wrong with the smell of our vaginas and that they need to be cleaned.”
With the advent of social media and influencers getting paid for market products, vaginal trends have increased. Some of these include vaginal vaping or smoking and vaginal facials known as vajacials.
The first topic that Zenda addressed is how products negatively affect vaginal pH. The abbreviation pH stands for potential hydrogen, and pH equilibrium determines the acidity or alkalinity of something.
“The vagina has a sensitive pH value of 3.5-4.5. If you predispose it to something that shifts your pH, the bacteria and yeast that live in the vagina can cause thrush or a yeast infection, ”she said.
A woman who prefers to remain anonymous used a feminine lingerie for a month before developing an unusually thick discharge.
“I didn’t understand what happened because I wasn’t sexually active,” she said.
“I went to the doctor and she told me I had a yeast infection and that the product had upset my pH balance,” she added.
Zenda went on to explain that women can suffer from bacterial vaginosis, which causes a smelly discharge when the bacteria that are supposed to maintain the pH of the vagina are too low.
Zenda said these infections were not sexually transmitted but were caused by changes in the area around the vagina.
“A yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis causes the lining of your vagina to become vulnerable. This makes you more susceptible to more dangerous viruses such as HIV, herpes or the human papillomavirus (HPV). “
A previous study by the World Health Organization (WHO) looked at gender, sexuality and vaginal practices and their effects on sexual health. The study was conducted in four countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Mozambique and South Africa.
The study examined various methods of vaginal practice that included external washing, intravaginal cleaning, external application, and vaginal steaming.
In South Africa, the study was completed in KwaZulu-Natal and showed that intravaginal cleaning was a priority in the province. This refers to the internal cleansing, or washing, inside the vagina, including wiping the internal genitals with your fingers and other substances. This practice was widespread in 63.3% of women in KZN.
Applications of products outside the vagina were registered at 43% in the province.
The WHO concluded its study by saying, “The care and treatment of your vagina and genital area could affect your susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs including HIV) and other sexual and reproductive diseases.”
Greta Dreyer, a board member of the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (SASOG), said the vagina needs non-abrasive, non-allergenic, non-irritating products with a non-alkaline pH.
“There is no control over the method of use, hence limited responsibility on the part of the manufacturer,” she said.
She added, “In the short and long term, the vaginal flora can be changed for better or for worse.”
Dreyer said vaginal douches have been shown to have inherent dangers.
“It can alter and penetrate the cervical barrier to the upper genital tract; it can cause infections of the upper genitals or the abdomen. “
Dreyer advises anyone who uses these products to use them with caution.
“If you use them, preferably only on the external genital area.”