Dangers of Douching

The word “douche” means to wash or soak. Douching is washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Most douches are sold in stores as prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. The mixtures usually come in a bottle or bag. You squirt the douche upward through a tube or nozzle into your vagina. The water mixture then comes back out through your vagina. Douching is different from washing the outside of your vagina during a bath or shower. Rinsing the outside of your vagina with warm water will not harm your vagina.

In the United States, about 1 in 5 women between ages 15 and 44 report using vaginal douches. There are multiple reasons that women will douche.

  • clean the vagina
  • rinse away menstrual blood after monthly periods
  • prevent odor
  • prevent sexually transmitted disease
  • prevent pregnancy

These are all myths.

While some women say douching makes them feel cleaner, there is actually very little scientific evidence of the benefit from douching. Douching can be linked with and lead to many different health problems. It is recommended by medical providers that women do not douche.

Why should women not douche?

Douching can change the necessary balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and natural acidity in a healthy vagina.

A healthy vagina has good and harmful bacteria. The balance of bacteria helps maintain an acidic environment. The acidic environment protects the vagina from infections or irritation.

Douching can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This can lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. If you already have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This can lead to other serious medical problems.

What problems are linked to douching?

Health problems linked to douching include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is an infection in the vagina. Women who douche often (once a week) are five times more likely to develop BV than women who do not douche.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection in the reproductive organs that is often caused by an STI
  • Cervical cancer, douching at least once a week has been linked to a possible increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Vaginal irritation or dryness

Douching can can also be linked to problems with pregnancy:

  • Trouble getting pregnant. Women who douched at least once a month had a harder time getting pregnant than those women who did not douche.
  • Higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. Douching may increase a woman’s chance of damaged fallopian tubes and ectopic pregnancy.
  • Higher risk of early childbirth. Douching raises your risk for premature birth. One study found that women who douched during pregnancy were more likely to deliver their babies early.

Researchers are studying whether douching causes these problems or whether women at higher risk for these health problems are more likely to douche.

Should I douche to get rid of vaginal odor or clean the inside of my vagina?

No. You should not douche to try to get rid of vaginal odor or other vaginal problems like discharge, pain, itching, or burning.

Douching will only cover up odor for a short time and will make other problems worse. Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Vaginal itching and thick, white, or yellowish-green discharge with or without an odor
  • Burning, redness, and swelling in or around the vaginaPain when urinating
  • Pain or discomfort during sex

These may be signs of a vaginal infection, or an STI. Do not douche before seeing your doctor or nurse. This can make it hard for the doctor or nurse to find out what may be wrong.

What is the best way to clean my vagina?

It is best to let your vagina clean itself. The vagina cleans itself naturally by making mucous. The mucous washes away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge.

If you are worried about vaginal odor, talk to your doctor or nurse. But you should know that even healthy, clean vaginas have a mild odor that changes throughout the day. Physical activity also can give your vagina a stronger, muskier scent, but this is still normal.

Keep your vagina clean and healthy by:

  • Washing the outside of your vagina with warm water when you bathe. Some women also use mild soaps. But, if you have sensitive skin or any current vaginal infections, even mild soaps can cause dryness and irritation.
  • Avoiding scented tampons, pads, powders, and sprays. These products may increase your chances of getting a vaginal infection.

Can douching before or after sex prevent STIs?

No. Douching before or after sex does not prevent STIs. In fact, douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection. This can actually increase your risk of getting STIs, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Can douching after sex prevent pregnancy?

No. Douching does not prevent pregnancy. It should never be used for birth control. If you had sex without using birth control or if your birth control method did not work correctly (failed), please contact your doctor right away to discuss the the next steps.

In short, you should not douche. Talk with your Macarthur ob gyn doctor if you have any questions, but trust your body’s own processes to maintain your vaginal health.

5 Secrets to a Healthy Vagina

All women should be concerned about their vaginal health. There are many suggested tips you can follow to provide a healthy vaginal environment.

1. Maintaining a normal pH balance is important for a healthy vaginal environment.

It is recommended to avoid douching, using harsh soaps or feminine fragrances. Any alteration in the vaginal pH could lead to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, leading to infection. Some women have a difficult time maintaining a normal vaginal pH, despite their greatest efforts. There is an over the counter product, RepHresh (available in a variety of forms), which can help normalize the vaginal pH.

2. It is imperative to practice safe sex.

Using condoms will reduce and protect you against transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Some of the  more common STD’s are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomonas, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Herpes. These STD’s  commonly cause vaginal discharge, odor, itching, burning, lesions or painful ulcerations.

3. Vaginal hygiene is another important key to a healthy vagina.

The genital area should be kept clean and dry. A mild soap, like Dove, is recommended. Proper wiping techniques (front to back) will prevent contamination of bacteria into the vagina. This is especially important after a bowel movement. Cotton under garments should be worn and thongs should be avoided. It is important to remove wet bathing suits and work out clothes after use to avoid creating a warm and moist environment allowing the perfect environment for yeast production.

4. Adequate vaginal lubrication is another important aspect of vaginal health.

Vaginal dryness can potentially lead to labial and vaginal irritation, chafing, tearing and pain during intercourse. There are several over the counter products (KY and Replens, to name a few) which offer daily moisturizers and vaginal lubricants. If you are in your menopausal years, your vaginal dryness could be a result of decreased estrogen production, and you would likely benefit from a vaginal estrogen cream supplement to aid in your dryness and comfort.

5. Your overall health also plays a major role in your vaginal health.

If you are a diabetic, it is important to control your blood sugars. Chronic elevated blood sugars can increase yeast production in the vaginal tissue. Managing your weight is strongly recommended as well. Being overweight in the abdominal region can lead to weakness of the pelvic, bladder and vaginal muscles, which can result in poor control of urine and prolapse of the bladder and/or your uterus. If you are a smoker, you should quit! Smoking can have devastating effects on all organs. Smoking weakens your ability to fight off infection. Smoking will also increase your likelihood of developing cervical and vaginal cancers.

In conclusion, it is important to see your provider yearly for your annual pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. It is advised to seek medical evaluation for vaginal symptoms including: discharge, odor, itching, burning, dryness, lesions or ulcerations, and pain during or after intercourse.

Search

+