BOSTON — A popular clothing choice and a common grooming trend among women may be doing them more harm than good. New research shows that women who frequently wear tight pants or have their pubic hair removed are significantly more likely to suffer from a painful vaginal condition.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health, finds that the risk of suffering from vulvodynia, or chronic and debilitating discomfort of the vulva (the external area of the female genitals), is nearly doubled when women don slim-fitting jeans or tight pants at least four times in a week. The risk is also raised to a similar level for those who remove hair from the mons pubis, which is the soft area of skin found above the genitals.
It’s the first study to draw a link between vulvodynia and women’s clothing or grooming habits.
“With an increase in the prevalence of pubic hair removal directly from the vulvar region, particularly in adolescent girls, the microabrasions to this sensitive area may predispose young women to immune-inflammatory complications,” says study senior author Dr. Bernard Harlow, a professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, in a media release. “Likewise, tight-fitting jeans or pants can create an environment that fosters genital tract infections, which have been shown to be associated with vulvar pain onset.”
For the study, researchers examined self-reported data on medial history and personal hygiene behaviors from 213 women who suffered from vulvodynia, and 221 women who had not reported any vulvar pain. Compared to women who rarely or never wore tight pants or skinny-type jeans, those who wore them four or more times a week were about twice as likely to experience pain.
Similarly, those who removed pubic hair from the mons pubis area weekly were 74 percent more likely to develop the condition versus women who only removed hair from the bikini area. The risk was nearly doubled if women who practiced the grooming habit did so at least once a week.
The study was published in the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease.