The word ”douche” is French for ”wash” or ”soak.” Vaginal Douching 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.
Besides making themselves feel fresher, women say they douche to get rid of unpleasant odors, wash away menstrual blood after their period, avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases, and prevent a pregnancy after intercourse.
Yet, health experts say douching is not effective for any of these purposes. They also warn that it can actually increase the risk of infections, pregnancy complications, and other health problems.
What is vaginal douching?
Douching is the practice of washing or flushing the vagina with water or other fluids. Vaginal douches are available as prepackaged mixes, most commonly involving water mixed with vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Douches are available at pharmacies and supermarkets.
What are the advantages of douching?
Some women say douching makes them feel cleaner. There is, though, very little scientific evidence of benefit from douching. The rare positive research that does exist often has a downside. One study found that douching during the six months before reduced the risk of preterm delivery. However, in that same study, douching during pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of preterm birth.
What are the disadvantages of douching?
Overall, the risks of douching far outweigh the benefits. Here are just a few of the problems linked to douching:
Vaginal infections (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 and endometriosis.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (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 complications. 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.
Cervical cancer. Douching at least once a week has been linked to a possible increased chance of developing cervical cancer.
Should a woman douche?
According to health experts, including those at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 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.
Is vaginal douching necessary?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women avoid the practice of vaginal douching. Most physicians also do not recommend douching. Douching can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina and can alter the normal pH of the vagina. Changes in the composition of the bacteria that normally reside within the vagina can lead to an increased risk of vaginal infections such as yeast infections. Douching can also cause the spread of harmful bacteria further up into the reproductive tract if an infection is already present in the vagina.
Women who douche state that they do so because they believe it offers health benefits, such as cleaning the vagina, rinsing away blood after menstrual periods, avoiding odor, and preventing pregnancy or infections. However, these beliefs are false, and douching is not necessary to “clean” the vagina. Douching also does not protect against pregnancy or against sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
What is the best way to clean the vagina?
The vagina produces mucus, which acts as a natural cleansing agent to wash away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge. Washing the outside of the vagina with mild soap and water with regular bathing is sufficient for good hygiene.
Can douching after sex prevent pregnancy?
No, douching after sex does not prevent pregnancy and should never be used as a method of birth control.
Can douching after sex prevent sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)?
Douching after sex or at any time has no effect in preventing STDs.
Can douching affect fertility or pregnancy?
Some studies have shown that women who douche regularly take longer to become pregnant when trying to conceive than women who do not douche. Other research has shown that douching may damage the Fallopian tubes and lead to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).
In pregnant women, douching was shown in one study to increase the risk of preterm birth by a factor of 1.9.
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