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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: Tight Pants and Pubic-Hair Removal Increase Risk of Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a condition characterized by chronic, debilitating vulva pain. It affects an estimated 16 percent of women over their lifetimes, but very little is known about the condition or what might cause it.

Now, a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study led by students offers some clues, finding that the risk of vulvodynia is nearly doubled by wearing tight-fitting jeans or pants four or more times a week, or removing hair from the mons pubis.

Published in the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease it is the first study to show a link between clothing and grooming and the condition.

“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, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH. “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.”

The researchers used data from a previous study that identified 213 women between the ages of 18 and 40 with clinically-confirmed cases of vulvodynia in a large healthcare network in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metropolitan area.

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