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Douching? Don't!

Why Women Should Not Douche

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Updated October 03, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What is Douching?

Douching is the act of cleaning of the vagina. Women from different cultures use different techniques and products to douche. Some use plain water, others water and vinegar, and still others various antiseptics or other solutions. Douching may involve simply rinsing with the cleaning liquid, or forcing it at high pressure into the vagina using a bag or other device. Depending on what techniques and products are used, the potential risks of douching will vary. Plain water and simply rinsing are the safest bet, although even this mild type of douching is still not recommended by most physicians.

Note: Medicinal douches prescribed by a physician are a separate issue. If your doctor prescribes a medicinal douche, you should use it as directed

Why Shouldn't I Douche?

Basically, douching is bad for your health because it disturbs the normal chemical and microbial balance of the vagina - possibly leading to BV or other bacterial infections. Douching also may force pathogens up through the cervix causing uterine infections.

In addition to disrupting the vaginal flora, the chemicals used in many over-the-counter and homemade douches also may irritate or inflame the skin. This could either making an existing infection worse or make a woman more susceptible to a new infection.

Many women douche because of a strong or unusual vaginal odor or discharge. This is particularly dangerous if these symptoms are the result of an infection such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis. If you have such an infection, douching could force the organisms into the uterus where they are more likely to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection linked to infertility.

In fact, douching is a major cause of secondary infertility. Secondary infertility occurs when a couple who have successfully become pregnant in the past are no longer able to conceive a child. Douching also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Next: Understanding the risk of having an STD during pregnancy...

Sources:

Aral, S. O.; Mosher, W. D., and Cates, W. Jr. Vaginal douching among women of reproductive age in the United States: 1988. Am J Public Health. 1992 Feb; 82(2):210-4.

Kendrick, J. S.; Atrash, H. K.; Strauss, L. T.; Gargiullo, P. M., and Ahn, Y. W. Vaginal Douching as a potential risk factor for tubal ectopic pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1997; 176:991-7.

Merchant, J. S.; Oh, K., and Klerman, L. V. Douching: a problem for adolescent girls and young women. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Aug; 153 (8):834-7

Onderdonk, A. B.; Delaney, M. L.; Hinkson, P. L., and DuBois, A. M. Quantitative and qualitative effects of douche preparations on vaginal microflora. Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Sep; 80(3 Pt 1):333-8.

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