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Vaginal Douching - To Douche or Not to Douche - The Douche Debate Continues

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Updated April 17, 2014

What is a vaginal douche?

A vaginal douche is a process of rinsing or cleaning the vagina by forcing water or another solution into the vaginal cavity to flush away vaginal discharge or other contents. Vaginal douches are available over-the-counter and are made in a variety of fragrances by several manufacturers; they are also available by prescription to treat certain conditions or prepare for certain procedures.

Why Do Some Women Use Vaginal Douches?

Women choose to use douches for a variety of reasons. Many of these are related to myths or misinformation about what vaginal douches can do. A woman may use a douche to:

  • Rinse away any remaining menstrual blood at the end of the monthly period. This is not necessary since the body will clean itself.
     
  • Avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases following sexual intercourse. However, douching is neither a contraceptive nor a preventatives measure against STDs or other infections. It can, in fact, increase the risk of developing an infection.
     
  • Reduce vaginal odors. Women who have an unusual vaginal odor need to see their clinician for proper diagnosis since extreme odor may be sign of an infection or other serious problem, and using a douche may only complicate the condition.
     
  • Feel "cleaner." The vagina actually cleans itself so vaginal douches are not necessary.
     
  • Follow a doctor-prescribed treatment for chronic yeast infections or chronic bacterial infections. Douching for this purpose should be done only under your doctor's supervision using the special solution provided.

Is Douching Healthy?

Simply stated, the answer is "No."

According to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, douching may reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant during a particular month by approximately thirty percent.

Regular vaginal douching changes the delicate chemical balance of the vagina and can make a woman more susceptible to infections. Douching can introduce new bacteria into the vagina which can spread up through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Researchers have found that women who douche regularly experience more vaginal irritations and infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and an increased number of sexually transmitted diseases.

Furthermore, regular users of vaginal douches face a significantly higher risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) -- a chronic condition that can lead to infertility, or even death, if left untreated. Bacterial vaginosis and PID can have serious adverse affects on pregnancy including infections in the baby, labor problems, and preterm delivery.

For these reasons, douching is no longer recommended as a safe or healthy way to routinely clean the vagina. The only safe and healthy way to clean the vagina is to let the vagina clean itself. The delicate chemical balance of the vagina is very sensitive and easily disrupted by routine vaginal douching.

How does the vagina clean itself?

The vagina cleans itself naturally with its own mucous secretions. When bathing or showering use warm water and gentle unscented soap to cleanse the outer areas of the vagina. Feminine hygiene products such as soaps, powders, and sprays are not necessary and may lead to irritation of sensitive tissues.
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