NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — A study conducted by Beijing Friendship Hospital published Tuesday found that condoms may help prevent vaginal infection.
The study examined 164 married women, ages 18 to 45, all in good health. Seventy-two of them were using condoms for birth control. The women using condoms were found to have higher levels of beneficial bacteria or lactobacillus, which is thought to block harmful bacteria from causing odor and infection.
This study provides evidence of the correlation between intercourse and vaginal infection. “The findings are no surprise to OB/Gyns who have long understood that elevated pH increases the risk of infection," stated Michael Krychman, executive director Southern California Center for Sexual Health. "Semen has a high pH, so vaginal pH is elevated following unprotected intercourse. Wearing a condom can certainly prevent semen from being introduced into the vagina and elevating vaginal pH. That’s good news for couples who are using condoms to prevent possible HIV transmission or pregnancy, as they can also prevent infections like BV.”
Condoms might not be the answer for healthy couples in an exclusive relationship, where STD prevention is not needed and alternative forms of birth control are being used. Condom usage solely for the purpose of preventing elevated pH may be unrealistic as some couples may find that condoms hinder spontaneity and pleasure. Krychman pointed out that other options are available for couples in this situation. An over-the-counter product called RepHresh Gel has been clinically shown to maintain healthy vaginal pH. It can be used either before or after intercourse and lasts for 3 days, so spontaneity is not an issue.
“A vaginal pH of 3.5–4.5 indicates that there is a perfect amount of good bacteria (lactobacilli), and no overgrowth of the bad bacteria that can cause odor, irritation and many times, infection,” Krychman said. “Intercourse is just one way that pH can become unbalanced. The high pH of blood during menstruation can also cause elevated pH, as well as normal hormone fluctuations and some hygiene products. While condom use is an excellent solution for elevated pH due to intercourse, women should be aware that non-prescription products are readily accessible, enabling women of any age to control their pH and avoid infection.”