Is Vaginal Douching Recommended?

Are there any medically sound reasons to use vaginal douches?

Young woman wearing towel
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Douching is the act of washing or cleaning out the vagina with water and other "cleansing" ingredients. Although the practice is no longer recommended by most doctors, some women still choose to use douches. But is it a harmless practice or should it be avoided altogether?

What Is a Douche?

First, what is douche? Typically it is a pre-made mixture is bought in a plastic bottle with a nozzle that can be squirted into the vagina.

The mixture may contain water with vinegar and possibly some type of fragrance. Women choose to use douches for a variety of reasons, and many of these reasons are related to myths or misinformation about what vaginal douches can and can't do. Some women like to use vaginal douches after their periods. Other women use vaginal douches after sexual intercourse as a personal hygiene routine or because they've heard the myth that you can prevent pregnancy by douching after sex (which simply isn't true; vaginal douching is not an effective means of contraception). But do we really need to use vaginal douches?

Is Douching Necessary for Personal Hygiene?

The answer to these questions is simply, “No.” Women don’t need to use vaginal douches at any time. In fact, doctors don’t recommend using vaginal douches at all. The vagina cleans itself naturally, with no products required. Despite what many women's personal product ads imply, the natural fluids in your vagina keep the inside of the vagina hygienic, healthy, and clean.

Why You Don't Need Vaginal Cleansing Products

The natural, acidic pH of your vagina acts to prevent infections and is caused by natural, good, bacteria produced by your body. On a "normal" day, your vagina keeps itself clean and in a healthy state by producing secretions known as normal vaginal discharge.

The natural balance of the vagina can be disrupted by anything that interferes with its normal environment.

Even during and after menstruation, a woman's vagina makes adjustments to keep the environment within balanced and functioning. All that’s needed to clean the outside of your vagina (known as the vulva) is a warm bath or shower with a gentle, preferably unscented, bath soap.

Vaginal douches are not the only unnecessary feminine hygiene product on the drugstore shelf. You can leave most of the other feminine hygiene products including sprays, powders, and soaps on your drug store shelf as well.

How Douching Can Be Harmful

While it is true that you don't need to douche to be clean, what's most important for women to know is that vaginal douches may actually be harmful to your health. Vaginal douching increases the risk of developing a serious infection by upsetting the balance of the natural vaginal ecosystem that keeps the vagina healthy.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), douching can cause some serious health issues, particularly for pregnant women.

It's been associated with ectopic pregnancy, low birth weight, preterm labor, preterm birth, and chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the fetal membranes due to a bacterial infection.

The NIH reports that douching makes it more likely a woman will develop bacterial vaginosis. It's also believed to increase the risks of cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometritis, as well as increasing the risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

All that’s needed to clean the outside of your vagina is a warm bath or shower with gentle, preferably unscented, bath soap.

Sources:

National Institutes for Health

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