Objective: Vaginal steam baths with herb leaves (herb use) is practised by some Surinamese women. We assessed herb use among women from the five most prevalent ethnic groups, and if herb use is associated with Chlamydia trachomatis infection.
Setting: Participants were recruited at a sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic and a family planning clinic (FP) in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Participants: 1040 women were included subsequently, comprising the following ethnic groups: Creole (26.7%), Hindustani (24.6%), Javanese (15.7%), Maroon (13.3%) and mixed descent (19.7%).
Methods: Nurses collected a questionnaire and vaginal swabs for nucleic acid amplification C. trachomatis testing.
Primary outcomes: Determinants of vaginal herb use and C. trachomatis infection via univariable and multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Herb use was most common among Maroon (68.8%) and Creole women (25.2%). In multivariable analysis including only Maroon and Creole women, determinants significantly associated with vaginal herb use were (OR; 95% CI): Maroon ethnic descent (5.33; 3.26 to 8.71 vs Creole), recruitment at the STI clinic (2.04; 1.24 to 3.36 vs FP), lower education levels (3.80; 1.68 to 8.57 lower vs higher, and 2.02; 0.90 to 4.51 middle vs higher). Lower age and recruitment at the STI clinic were associated with C. trachomatis infection, but not vaginal herb use.
Conclusion: In Suriname, vaginal herb use is common among Maroon and Creole women. Education, ethnic group and recruitment site were determinants for herb use. Vaginal herb use was not a determinant of C. trachomatis infection. Future research should focus on the effect of herb use on the vaginal microbiome and mucosal barrier.
Keywords: Suriname; ethnicity; herb therapy; vaginal; vaginal douching.
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