Vaginal douching is used for personal hygiene or aesthetic reasons, for preventing or treating an infection, to cleanse after menstruation or sex, and to prevent pregnancy. For at least 100 years, there have been conflicting views on the benefits or harm in douching.
Besides making themselves feel fresher, women say they douche to get rid of unpleasant odours, wash away menstrual blood after their period, avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases, and prevent pregnancy after intercourse.
What Is Vaginal Douching?
Vaginal douching uses a mixture of water and other ingredients, placed in a bottle or bag. The mixture is then sprayed or squirted directly into the vagina. The process flushes fluids out of the vagina.
The most common reasons women report they use a douche include:
- eliminating unpleasant odours
- preventing pregnancy
- washing away menstrual blood after a period or semen after sex
- avoiding a sexually transmitted infection
Unfortunately, according to health experts, there is very little scientific evidence of benefit from vaginal douching in any way.
Is Douching Safe?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology doesn’t recommend women use douching products at all. Vaginas are designed to naturally maintain a healthy pH balance. It’s filled with bacteria, or vaginal flora, that help stop infections and prevent irritations.
If you remove or greatly reduce the number of healthy bacteria in your vagina, problematic bacteria may flourish. This can lead to infections, irritations, and more serious complications.
Overall, the risks of douching far outweigh the benefits.
What Are The Risks Of Vaginal Douching?
If you douche, you can end up upsetting your vagina’s natural environment. You could also end up dealing with complications that can be quite severe. here are some of the risks of vaginal douching:
Complications During Pregnancy:
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. You may also experience early childbirth, miscarriage, and other pregnancy complications.
Douching upsets the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina (called vaginal flora). These changes make the environment more susceptible to 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. Eliminating the natural balance may also let yeast develop which can lead to a yeast infection. Some women douche hoping that it will eliminate vaginal infections. Douching may actually make an infection worse. Douching while you have a vaginal infection may also spread the infection to other parts of your reproductive system.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):
PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. Most cases of PID are caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Douching increases a woman’s risk of PID by 73 per cent. One in eight women with a history of PID have difficulty getting pregnant.
Cervicitis/ Cervical Cancer:
Cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix. Like PID, cervicitis is often the result of STIs, but women who douche are also more likely to develop this condition. A research also found that douching at least once a week has been linked to a possible increased chance of developing cervical cancer.
Then How Do I Clean My Vagina?
The easiest way to clean your vagina is to simply wash it during a bath or shower. Soap isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to use one, make sure it’s mild and not heavily scented. Fragrances and chemicals can irritate the sensitive skin of your genitals, or use soaps specially made for external vaginal cleaning. Vaginal douching doesn't "clean" your vagina. Instead, here are some steps you can follow:
- With one hand, form a V with your first two fingers to hold back the outside skin and spread out the folds of your vagina.
- Use warm water to gently splash the area several times. Wash with a bar of mild soap, if you want to use it. Don’t scrub the folds harshly, and avoid getting soap inside your vagina.
- Gently rinse the area with water until all the soap is removed.
- Using a clean towel, pat the area dry.
When Should I Be Worried?
Vaginal odour is normal, as is some discharge on the regular. A few signs that may indicate you have a more serious problem and need to see a doctor are:
- vaginal discharge with a strong smell
- vaginal discharge that is white or yellow-green
- vaginal odour that is persistent and doesn’t end after a few days
- burning, itching, and redness or swelling in or around the vagina
- pain or discomfort during sex
- pain during urination
Vaginal Douching does not solve any of these problems, as mentioned earlier.
Can You Prevent Vaginal Odour?
All vaginas have a natural odour. Each woman’s odour is different, and the natural odour can change over time. Things like exercise or sex can change your vagina’s natural odour temporarily. You can still reduce the risk of developing strong odours with a few simple steps that don't require vaginal douching.
- Practice proper hygiene: Gently wash your genitals regularly. Avoid using soaps that could irritate the sensitive skin.
- Wear breathable fabrics: Excess moisture around the genitals and vagina can increase odours and lead to infections. Wear undergarments made from 100 per cent cotton, which is breathable. Satin, silk and polyester fabrics don’t allow for adequate airflow and may boost bacterial growth.
- Use deodorizing products carefully: Sprays and powders may help mask vaginal odour, but using them internally causes serious issues, use them only externally.
- Don’t use harsh cleansers: Don’t use harsh cleansers like douches in your vagina. They can upset your vagina’s pH balance and cause irritation and infections.
In conclusion, your vagina is self-cleaning. It’s designed to eliminate semen, blood, and other fluids through natural discharges. You don’t need to clean it with harsh washes or vaginal douching.
If you’re experiencing an unusual odour or discharge, don’t use a douche to eliminate it. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor. Regular douching may mask or hide underlying problems.