No — don’t douche, say medical experts. The vagina is naturally equipped to keep itself clean, and doesn’t need help from any outside source.
Douche means “to wash” or “to soak” in French, and refers to the practice of washing or rinsing out the vagina using water or some other fluid. Douches are available at most drug stores or grocery stores, and are sold in bottles that allow users to squirt the solution into the vagina through a hose or nozzle. Douche solutions most often have a water base and can also contain baking soda, vinegar, iodine, and perfume or fragrance.
Researchers believe that 20 to 40 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 douche on a regular basis. About 50 percent of these women douche every week.
But is it good for them?
“Absolutely not,” says Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, professor emerita at Rutgers University and secretary general of the World Association for Sexual Health.
According to Whipple and other experts, douching serves no good purpose and can, in fact, create health problems for women.
The Drawbacks of Douching
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ. The cervix and the walls of the vagina create a small amount of mucous that carries menstrual blood, old cells, and other matter out of the vagina. Special bacteria in the vagina also help to prevent infections caused by other microbes that don’t belong in the vagina. The normally acidic environment of the vagina is also important for minimizing the risk of infection. The healthy vagina represents a fine-tuned, delicate system that douching can easily throw out of whack.
“Douching flushes out the normal bacteria in the vagina that are there to fight vaginal infections,” Whipple explains. “It was used for medical treatment until the mid-20th Century, when it was found that it was not healthy.”
Ironically, though many women still believe douching will “clean out” the vagina, douching actually increases the risk of bacterial overgrowth and associated vaginal infections. Douching may also cause pre-existing vaginal infections to travel deeper into the female reproductive system, flushing the infection into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Recent studies have even found that douching can increase the risk of contracting sexual transmitted diseases (STDs).