The objective of this descriptive study was to quantify the personal hygiene habits/practices of, as well as the over-the-counter (OTC) products used by, postmenopausal women. Specifically, we were interested in any product that would contact the vulva or vagina.
We performed a cross-sectional study of postmenopausal women seeking routine gynecologic care. We developed a questionnaire on their personal hygiene habits/practices and the OTC products that they use that would contact the vulva or vagina. We recruited postmenopausal women seeking gynecologic care from two separate gynecology practices. Descriptive statistics were performed as appropriate to characterize the frequency of reported treatments and practices.
The questionnaire on OTC treatments and perineal hygiene was completed by 114 postmenopausal women. Fifty-eight women (50.9%) reported using at least one OTC vulvovaginal treatment in the last 3 months, including barrier treatments, topical anesthetics, powders, and antifungals. Women often used more than one OTC product. Thirty-seven women (32.5%) reported the use of two or more OTC products. Powders were used by 34 women (29.8%). Talcum powder was the most commonly used powder (26 of 34; 76.5%). Nine postmenopausal women (7.9%) reported douching in the last 3 months.
We found that more than half of postmenopausal women seeking gynecologic care have used an OTC product for vulvovaginal symptoms in the last 3 months and that one third of women use two or more products. Because the use of OTC products is very common, our study highlights the need for a detailed history inquiry about OTC product use and perineal hygiene practices.