Vaginal Creams Can
Cause Condom Failure
NEW YORK - When used in combination with condoms, certain popular over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal products may lead to condom failure, Texas researchers report.
Previous research has shown that latex - the material that most condoms are made of - rapidly deteriorates when exposed to pure mineral (baby) oil or vegetable oil (common ingredients in some OTC vaginal lubricants), and anti-fungal or anti-itch creams.
In the new study, vaginal products that contained the oils decreased condom strength, which potentially could hamper their effectiveness as birth control and prevention against sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report in the Southern Medical Journal.
"The use of any vaginal product that contains mineral oil or vegetable oil may be associated with decreased condom integrity," stressed lead researcher Dr. Ted Rosen, a dermatologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
In the study, Rosen and colleague Allison D. Rosen exposed 20 condoms to 10 OTC vaginal products for 5 minutes to see if exposure had any effect on "burst" time. After exposure, researchers inflated the condoms with an air pump to see how much time and pressure it took for them to burst.
Compared with 20 untreated "control" condoms, those that were exposed to products with mineral oil and vegetable oil took less time to burst.
Not surprisingly, exposure to pure baby oil resulted in a condom burst time of 11.2 seconds, the researchers report. Exposure to a variety of OTC products that did not contain the oils did not affect condom strength.
"Caution is advised when women use any OTC intravaginal product, whether (or not) a warning label is present, if such a product includes any mineral and/or vegetable oil component," the researchers conclude.
In 1997, about 460 million condoms were sold in the US, at a cost of $275 million. And each year, close to 25 million OTC vaginal antifungal products are sold.