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Medics Caution Women On Vaginal Washes

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Dr. Rosette Namulindwa, a Specialist Obstetrician/ Gynecologist at Mulago Specialized Women’s and Neonatal hospital, asks women to avoid using intimate washes to cover up health conditions that they might be suffering from.
According to doctors,using the washes exposes women to infections

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Vaginal or intimate washes have are awash on the Ugandan market. They are common in supermarket shelves, pharmacies, drug shops, beauty parlors and saloons.

Some of the products on the market include Klenva Liquid, V Wash Plus, Betadine, Naturacentail feminine. They cost between Shillings 5,000 to 380,000. Many of them are advertised as a solution to irritation and bad odors in the vagina.  

Some even go as far as saying that they contain anti-aging chemicals.  The manufactures of the intimate washes claim that they help women to protect their vaginas from infection and keep them fresh all the time. This is contrary to the old practice where women were advised to use plain water to clean genitals. 

 

According to doctors, the use of intimate washes is exposing so many Ugandan women to infections such as Urinary Tract Infections and yeast infections. Dr. Franklin Wasswa, a Public Health Specialist, says the vagina doesn’t need any kind of wash or special substance to clean because it is a self- cleaning organ. 

“Using a wash distorts the normal cleaning process which exposes the vagina to infections. Soap or foam and the vagina do not have any business being near each other," Wasswa said.

Dr. Rosette Namulindwa, a Specialist Obstetrician/ Gynecologist at Mulago Specialized Women’s and Neonatal hospital, asks women to avoid using intimate washes to cover up health conditions that they might be suffering from.  

 

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Dr. Namulindwa says using vaginal washes changes the vaginal pH, which can lead to a number of virginal infections. PH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline (basic) a substance is. 

The normal vaginal pH is supposed to range from 3.6 and 4.5 making it moderately acidic. However, this depends on ones ages. During the ages of 15 to 49, it is supposed to be below or equal to 4.5. During menopause- 45 and above, the pH is higher than 4.5.      

“When women use washes, the vaginal pH is tampered with and as a result the pH might be lowered or increased. These variances create a perfect environment for bacteria such as yeast to grow which leads to infections,” Dr. Namulindwa explained.  

Dr. Namulindwa says that due to the demand of vaginal washes, they are experiencing an increase in the number of women suffering from infections, which they believe are as a result of using vaginal washes.  

 

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While medical officers discourage the use of vaginal or feminine washes, retailers of the products adamantly market them as the answer to all genital care problems. 

Josephine Atapi is a sales representative of AIM Global, the distributors of Naturacentail feminine Wash. She says their products are natural and don’t have any side effects.  

“We use natural products. This product has no side effects and helps women keep their vaginas clean since many times they sweat or even go to the toilet to urinate and do not clean themselves well which can cause discomfort and or even a bad odor,” Atapi says.  

Some of the elements in the wash include; Elemi Oil-plant tissue, which is supposed to act as a stimulant, an anti-inflammatory, tonic and pain relief for vaginal diseases such as vulvovaginitis.  

Other elements of the wash are Aloe Vera that has antibacterial properties and Guava Leaf which is believed to be able to treat infections.   

Dr. Wasswa says that the people who prescribe the use of washes are paid to do so, adding that most of them are ignorant of active chemicals in the washes.     

 

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Dr. Namilindwa says that very few people who use washes today actually don’t need them.     

“Washes can be prescribed by a doctor but to treat infections but today there are more women using them because their friend and not a doctor recommended them,” Dr. Namulindwa said.

So why are Women Using Washes     

Dr. Wasswa says that so many women are duped into using the products due to the aggressive marketing carried out by the manufacturers of the products. 

He says women are made to believe that the responsibility to address sexual issue lies with them.    

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According to Dr.Wasswa, as manufacturers earn billions, women are left stuck. The vaginal wash industry in 2018 was globally estimated to be worth US$ 1.1 billion and is expected to grow by 3.4% from 2019 to 2025.

URN spoke to some women about vaginal washes. A number of women that URN spoke to said that the washes were prescribed by a friend. Other women said they would never use the products.

Florence Mukibi, a mother of four, said she used the washes after a friend of hers told her that a particular brand would help increase the levels of arousal fluid that she has. 

 

“A friend of mine who was a sales person for one of those network marketing groups said that it will help me. However, it did not. After paying Shillings 250,000 for it, my genitals begun feeling weird. Their texture changed. They were hard. I stopped using it even,” Mukiibi said.

Loyce Menya, a secretary in a law firm in Kampala, said that she uses feminine to smell fresh all the time, adding that it makes her confident. “I used it to smell fresh. Sometimes as women we sweat and when this sweat is soaked into our knickers it can cause a bad smell. But the wash helps. It stops all those bad smells,” Menya explained.

Jessica Nakandi, a food vendor in Kamwokya market, says that she cannot use a wash because women are not supposed to use soap in their genitals.

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Peace Magala says she stays away from such products because using a feminine was might expose her to chemicals that are not safe for her genitals. 

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Other ways of Vagina cleaning   While vaginal washes have become popular, so have other systems of cleaning the vagina and vulva. Some methods such as vaginal steaming, flushing also known as douching are used by some women to try and clean their genitals.

During vaginal steaming, a woman sits on a bucket filled with herbs and hot water to clean the vulva. For douching, substances such as warn water, vinegar, baking soda or even iodine are inserted into the vaginal to clean it.

Dr. Namulindwa says that nothing like hot water or even other substances should be inserted into the vulva or vagina. She says that many of the things being used like vagina steaming, flushing or even douching are not necessary as they stop the proper functioning of the vagina.

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Dr. Namulindwa advises women to stick to the old and tried methods of genital care. "Women should stop copying. The best way to clean the vulva is using water. Soap is not needed. Washes are not needed. Even after monthly periods, only water should be used. Water works," Dr. Namulindwa said.