Dear Dr. Date,R…



Dear Dr. Date,
Recently, my girlfriend told me that she has been getting vaginal infections after a weekend of having sex. Ours is a long distance relationship and we only see each other once or twice a month. However, it is not after every weekend together that she contracts an infection. It seems to her that these infections arise on the few occasions when we don’t use condoms. So, she suggested to me that I am not cleaning my penis thoroughly enough. I was offended by this, for I consider myself fastidious in the realm of personal hygiene. Basically, I would like to know if this is a possible cause of her infections. I would also be interested in other causes of vaginal infections.
— Feeling Dirty

Let us begin with a brief lesson on the typical vaginal ecosystem. A normally functioning vagina contains a host of microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. These mini-beasts balance each other out, a process which in turn protects the vagina from other, more nefarious organisms. One bacteria, Lactobacillus, breaks down sugar in the vaginal walls. This produces lactic acid keeping the pH level of the vagina on the low side at about 4.0 to 5.0. Whenever you introduce something that causes the vagina to be less acidic, you are vulnerable to problems. One example is menstrual blood which has a higher pH. Women often have more problems with vaginitis during and around their period. Antibiotics are also trouble because they can end up killing the helpful bacteria that keep the vagina operating normally.
At this point, you and your sweetheart seem to be dealing only in speculation. A doctor should be included in the assessment. The vagina is an intricate and complicated part of the body. Any number of things can cause infection. It may not be an infection at all, but irritation caused by friction or spermicide. Before you go any further with your accusations, consult a doctor who has access to a microscope and try to determine exactly what your sweetheart is dealing with.
I know you were looking for a simple answer that would end this unjustified affront to your hygiene, but I can’t give it. The book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” has the following entry pertaining to causes of vaginal infections.
“Some of the reasons for vaginal infections are a general lowered resistance (from stress, lack of sleep, bad diet, other infections in our bodies); too much douching or use of “feminine hygiene sprays;” pregnancy; taking birth control pills, other hormones, or antibiotics; diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition; cuts, abrasions, and other irritations in the vagina (from childbirth, intercourse without enough lubrication, tampons, to using an instrument in the vagina medically or for masturbation).”
Good luck in your detective work, and solve this problem together.