The desire to feel clean is perfectly natural. Many women who douche do so to eliminate vaginal odors, feel fresh again, clean period blood, and to avoid STDs and pregnancy after intercourse. Unfortunately, however, studies have proven that douching can have other effects. In fact, many doctors assert that it can cause women to be more susceptible to diseases and sicknesses. Let’s take a look at why douching can be a negative health choice for women.
What is Douching?
Derived from the French word “douche”, which translates to washing or soaking, douching is the practice of cleansing the vagina.
Women douche by using a tube or nozzle to squirt a cleansing mixture up into the vagina. In most cases, this is a mixture of water and vinegar, but it may also include baking soda and/or iodine. Pre-packaged douches sold in easily accessed drugstores also normally include fragrances and antiseptics. After cleansing the vagina, the water naturally exits the vagina.
While douching may seem like an effective approach to cleaning the vagina, there are no ostensible health benefits. In fact, almost all doctors recommend that women do not douche, as there are several health problems that have been linked to douching.
Negative Effects of Douching
Interfering with the natural order of the vagina can affect its overall chemical balance.
The natural acidity of the vagina is maintained by controlling the balance of harmful and helpful bacteria. The acidic environment created by these bacteria naturally protects the vagina against infections and irritation. These bacteria, also known as flora, are negatively impacted by the introduction of chemicals introduced by the douche such as baking soda, iodine and vinegar.
Douching can both eliminate the helpful bacteria within the vagina, and cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This imbalance of bacteria may lead to a yeast infection, or several other complications.
5 Health Risks From Douching
In addition to the overall decline in health, douching can also cause or increase the risk of several health conditions.
- Bacterial Vaginosis- The imbalance in bacteria that results from douching cultivates an environment that permits harmful bacteria to grow. The most prominent symptom of bacterial vaginosis is an odorous gray or white vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis may increase the chances of preterm labor, as well as the chance of receiving an STI.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease- After douching, the presence of beneficial bacteria within the vagina will decrease. When harmful bacteria travels from the vagina up into the reproductive system, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. An infected reproductive system can cause a heavy discharge, bleeding without a period, difficulty or pain when peeing, and pain in the stomach area.
- Pregnancy Complications- Douching can cause several pregnancy-related problems. It can cause difficulty for women who are attempting to get pregnant. It can also increase the chances of an ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo implants outside the uterus. Beyond these complications, douching after sex will not affect the chances of pregnancy.
- HPV– Women who douche are more prone to contract Human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, via sexual contact. Some strains of HPV cause cancer.
- STDs- Douching will increase the chances of being infected with an STD, such as HIV or AIDS. By removing some of the protective bacteria, douching makes one more prone to receiving an STD. Douching after sex will also not prevent the transmission of any STDs. If you believe you have contracted an STD, then you should get tested immediately.
Other Ways to Clean the Vagina
Permitting the vagina to clean itself is the healthiest option.
The vagina naturally produces mucus, which washes away blood, vaginal discharge and other foreign substances like semen.
Doctors do recommend that women clean the outside of their vaginas as part of the normal bathing process, but only with warm water. In rare cases, mild soaps are also acceptable. If there are any current complications, then even soap may be too aggressive.
Mild vaginal odors are perfectly normal, and should not be alarming. However, if you continue to notice strong odors, schedule an appointment with a gynecologist today.
Be Proactive in Maintaining Good Health
Making the right health decisions today is the best choice for ensuring positive health in the future. At Stony Brook Women’s Health, we guide all of our patients toward pursuing a healthy lifestyle by encouraging healthy decisions. Contact us to schedule a general check-up or specific appointment today.