Let's be honest: we all love our skinny jeans. Even if you don't, there are plenty of other popular styles we're all wearing these days that can feel pretty tight (Levi's wedgie jeans and ribcage styles, I'm looking at you). The problem with this is that it can often cause great discomfort down in our crotch area. From chafing and itching to pure horror when you sit down for a long time (yes, front wedgies are a thing), denim isn't always the most forgiving material when it comes to comfort. But are tight jeans bad for your vaginal health? Let's discuss.
Experts have long agreed that yeast infections such as thrush can come about in part thanks to tight clothing. Dr Hilary Jones, independent GP and medical adviser told Metro that, thrush can "develop due to wearing tight clothing, such as jeans or nylon underwear, as this prevents natural ventilation."
When taking into consideration that thrush is caused by a fungus called candida, which thrives in warm, moist environments, it makes sense to steer clear of super tight jeans.
The NHS also recommends to "avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear or tights" if you're suffering from vaginal itching and says that "some women find that special silk underwear designed for people with eczema and thrush is helpful."
However, there are varying opinions on how much wearing tight jeans can actually lead to a condition like thrush. Tami Rowen, M.D., an ob/gyn at UCSF Medical Center told Self that tight jeans are not a main cause of thrush. She says that often times, we may experience discomfort from wearing tight jeans, but it's simply irritation rather than an actual infection:
"Tight pants rubbing and putting pressure [on the vulva] can cause irritation." She continues: "I’ll do a biopsy, and it comes down to [the fact] that something is irritating the skin tissue."
Rowen agrees that wearing tight jeans and other clothing can certainly contribute to developing a condition like thrush, but that is usually when it's combined with other factors, such as using a different laundry detergent.
Indeed, the NHS lists the following as their main causes for an imbalance of bacteria, and a development of thrush:
- your skin is irritated or damaged
- you're taking antibiotics
- you have poorly controlled diabetes
- you have a weakened immune system, for example because of HIV or chemotherapy
- you've been through the menopause
- you're pregnant
As well as thrush, wearing tight jeans can actually be to blame for other issues, which nurse practitioner Lisa Stern has coined as 'tight pants syndrome (TPS)'. She told Glamour that wearing tight trousers can cause a multitude of vaginal health issues:
"The suffering of sad, tightly-clothed vaginas need to be brought to light. The most common symptoms of TPS are vaginal discharge (usually white, sometimes yellow, generally thick), pelvic pain, vaginal itching, and sometimes perineal or perianal (sorry, had to say it) itching. [...] Sometimes, and especially in women who shave, skin irritation can also result."
She continues, noting that people often don't associate these problems with clothing choices: "Patients tend to mistake TPS for an STD, a yeast infection (which can often be part of TPS), menstrual cramps, rashes, gastrointestinal disorders [...] you name it. But the tight pants somehow escape the blame. Probably because they're cute."
So while conditions like thrush are usually caused by a combination of factors, wearing tight jeans can certainly cause irritation, and a number of issues that can affect your vaginal health. I'm in no way suggesting ditching your jeans (I couldn't live without mine), but try not to wear them every day, and give them a break over the summer months, when it's the perfect time for floatier clothing.
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