Vaginal Douche (Douching)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Can Douching Cause Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina. Vaginitis can be caused by an infection with yeast, bacteria, or Trichomonas, but vaginitis also can be caused by non-infectious causes, for example, physical or chemical irritation such as:

  • Douches, soaps, or fragrances
  • Spermicides
  • Reduced estrogen levels around the time of menopause

What is vaginal douching?

Douching is the practice of washing or flushing the vagina with water or other fluids. Vaginal douches are available as prepackaged mixes, most commonly involving water mixed with vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Douches are available at pharmacies and supermarkets.

Is vaginal douching necessary?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women avoid the practice of vaginal douching. Most physicians also do not recommend douching. Douching can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina and can alter the normal pH of the vagina. Changes in the composition of the bacteria that normally reside within the vagina can lead to an increased risk of vaginal infections such as yeast infections. Douching can also cause the spread of harmful bacteria further up into the reproductive tract if an infection is already present in the vagina.

Women who douche state that they do so because they believe it offers health benefits, such as cleaning the vagina, rinsing away blood after menstrual periods, avoiding odor, and preventing pregnancy or infections. However, these beliefs are false, and douching is not necessary to “clean” the vagina. Douching also does not protect against pregnancy or against sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016
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