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Over-the-counter treatments and perineal hygiene in postmenopausal women

Erekson, Elisabeth A. MD, MPH1; Martin, Deanna K. MPH2; Brousseau, E. Christine MD2; Yip, Sallis O. MD1; Fried, Terri R. MD3

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31829a3216
Original Articles

Objective 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.

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Conclusions 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.

From the 1Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, and 2Section of Geriatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT; and 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI.

Received March 27, 2013; revised and accepted April 29, 2013.

Funding/support: E.A.E. was supported by the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at Yale University School of Medicine (P30 AG021342 National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging). This work was supported by an award from the National Institutes on Aging (R03AG042363-01).

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Elisabeth A. Erekson, MD, MPH, Section of Urogynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, PO Box 208063, New Haven, CT 06520-8063. E-mail:

© 2014 by The North American Menopause Society.