Vaginal Douching: Helpful or Harmful?

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What Is Vaginal Douching?

The word ”douche” is French for ”wash” or ”soak.” It is a method to wash out the vagina, usually with a mixture of water and vinegar. Douches that are sold in drugstores and supermarkets contain antiseptics and fragrances. A douche comes in a bottle or bag and is sprayed through a tube upward into the vagina. Vaginal douching has become prevalent among women, mostly due to aggressive marketing campaigns which claim that it helps to keep the vagina clean.

Problems Caused by Vaginal Douching

Douches may contain ingredients such as iodine, baking soda, vinegar and other chemicals that can upset the delicate balance in the vaginal ecosystem. Some of the disorders that can be caused by it are mentioned as follows:

Bacterial vaginosis: Douching upsets the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina (called vaginal flora). These changes make the environment more favorable for the growth of bacteria that cause infection. Studies have found that women who stopped douching were less likely to have bacterial vaginosis. Having bacterial vaginosis can increase the risk of preterm labor and sexually transmitted infections.

Bacterial Vaginosis is also the most common vaginal infection and douching has been deemed as one of the leading causes for it.

Yeast infections: Similar to how bacterial infections occur, in this case, yeast known as ‘candida’ can proliferate within the vagina. This fungus is normally present within the vagina, but douching can reduce the bacteria that keep its growth in check, resulting in rapid growth of Candida.

Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID): PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. Research has found that women who douche may have a 73% higher risk of getting PID.

Pregnancy related problems: Women who douche more than once a week have more difficulty getting pregnant than those who don’t douche. Douching may also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy by as much as 76%. With an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo implants outside the uterus. The more a woman douches, the greater the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. A myth has been floating around that if a woman performs douching after sexual intercourse, it will wash away the sperm and hence prevent her from getting pregnant. In fact, the reverse is true. Douching can often push the sperm up into the uterus causing pregnancy.

Irritation and vaginal dryness: Douching will result in vaginal drying which in turn will cause irritation and itching.

In Summary

According to health experts, including those at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC), you should avoid douching. Having some vaginal odor is normal. However, if you notice a very strong odor, it could be a sign of infection. The acidity of the vagina will naturally control bacteria, and simply washing the vagina with warm water and mild soap is enough to keep clean.