Over the past 20 years, I have performed thousands of successful surgeries and have helped many women improve their health. However a very simple and often overlooked factor in healthy vaginal health is the prudent use of soap. Soap and vaginas do not mix.
A vagina has a naturally acidic environment and is not sterile. There are good, non-odor producing bacteria, like lactobacillus, that live naturally in the vagina. A healthy vagina keeps itself clean and does not have major discharges.
Recently a 42 year- old woman came to my clinic complaining of urgency and frequency of urination. Another doctor had prescribed Detrol® and even though the condition was somewhat improving, the lady was still going to the bathroom much too often. Intercourse was painful and caused a sensation which led to the emptying of her bladder.
This was putting a strain on her marital relationship and was causing anxiety.
I was the fourth doctor that the lady had consulted with and her condition was very disagreeable.
After a careful analysis of the patients’ medical history, I performed a thorough physical examination. I observed redness which continued inside the vagina and asked the patient if she used any soap near or in her vagina when bathing.
“I do not use soap in my vagina” she replied, “but I like to be very clean and I use soap near my vagina.”
I explained to the patient, that I thought that the redness and irritation in her vagina might be from the use of soap which could be the cause of her urgency and frequency of urination. I further explained that an irritated vagina can be overly sensitive and painful during sexual intercourse.
I explained that a vagina is naturally acidic, self- cleaning, inhabited by “good bacteria” and that soap, which is alkaline, disturbs this natural balance. It does not matter if soap is hypo-allergenic or fragrance free as soap is alkaline and a healthy vagina is acidic.
I asked the patient to wash only with water around her vagina and to use the soap for other areas of her body. I explained that I would like to run some tests regarding her urgency and frequency of urination, but would prefer to wait and assess her situation until after the discontinuation of the use of soap near her vagina.
A month later the lady returned and the results were good: “Well you know doctor, I had a hard time not using soap near my vagina but I am so glad that I carefully followed your directions. I am cured and better than ever.
“My husband thought I would be the smelliest woman, however he now knows that is not true and he loves my new found sensitivity. We now have much happier sex with no pain or discharge (1-4 ml per day is normal). I just wanted to say thank you and I have told all my girlfriends about my experience. Oh by the way, my urgency and frequency of urination are totally gone”.
The simple and prudent use of soap had solved the lady’s problem.
A 23 year- old patient came to see me complaining that while she was not literally suicidal, she was basically ready to “jump of a bridge.” The patient had seen more than seven physicians, the last group of which was from an academic center specializing in vaginal discharge.
She had undergone extensive testing and had followed their treatment regimen to the letter. Even though the treatment seemed to reduce her excessive discharge, the problem would always return within 1-2 weeks.
Improper use of soap can cause urinary abnormalities and a painful vagina
I asked the patient if she used any soap close to or inside her vagina.
“Yes of course I do. I have to be clean” she replied. “My mother taught me very well and I like to be clean but I still get these awful discharges and smell.” I explained about the naturally occurring acidity of the vagina and that alkaline soap disrupts the balance that nature has so carefully developed. I asked the patient to stop using soap near or inside her vagina to which she agreed.
I let the patient know that if she complied with my instructions, I thought that she would be cured and that she would not have to make a follow up visit.
A month later the patient called to thank me as she was cured. She explained that she had been so desperate that she had followed my instructions very carefully.
She had never been this “discharge free” and she felt “clean and very self-confident.” These two anecdotal stories illustrate how simple improper daily health rituals can cause significant problems with one’s health and that the improper use of soap can cause urinary abnormalities and a painful vagina.
A solution as simple as only using fresh water to wash the vagina can eliminate discomfort, urgency and frequency or urination and can lead to more enjoyable sex.
In medicine, the solution is sometimes simple and a careful analysis of a patient’s medical history combined with a physical examination can lead to a simple life changing solution.
Obviously there can be other reasons for urgency and frequency of urination and painful intercourse. If you have any such concerns, please make an appointment for an evaluation with your physician.
Marja Sprock M.D. is a board certified OB/GYN with fellowship training in UroGynecology which she exclusively practices at Central Florida UroGynecology in Rockledge. Call 321-806-3929 for an appointment or send us a note. www.CFUroGyn.com.