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
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
- Reduced estrogen levels around the time of menopause
Can douching be harmful?
Yes, in some women, douching can lead to the spread of an infection or even
the development of an infection by altering the balance of normal bacteria that
are present in the vagina, as discussed previously. The risk of both
bacterial vaginosis and sexually-transmitted diseases may be increased by douching.
Douching can also cause vaginal irritation.
What is the best way to clean the vagina?
The vagina produces mucus, which acts as a natural cleansing agent to wash
away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge. Washing the outside of the vagina with
mild soap and water with regular bathing is sufficient for good hygiene.
Can douching help relieve vaginal discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning?
An abnormal vaginal odor, discharge, or discomfort can signal the presence of
an infection, so douching to relieve the symptom would only avoid the underlying
problem and might even make the infection worse. If you have abnormal vaginal
odor or discharge, pain, burning, or itching, it's important to see your
health-care professional for diagnosis and treatment. Douching before the
doctor's visit can make it more difficult to diagnose the problem and recommend
the right therapy.
Can douching after sex prevent pregnancy?
No, douching after sex does not prevent pregnancy and should never be used as
a method of birth control.
Can douching after sex prevent sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)?
Douching after sex or at any time has no effect in preventing STDs.
Can douching affect fertility or pregnancy?
Some studies have shown that women who douche regularly take longer to become
pregnant when trying to conceive than women who do not douche. Other research
has shown that douching may damage the Fallopian tubes and lead to an increased
risk of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).
In pregnant women, douching was shown in one study to increase the risk of
preterm birth by a factor of 1.9.
REFERENCE: Pray, S. W., et al. "Douching: perceived benefits but real hazards." Medscape.