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What is douching?

The word "douche" means to wash or soak in French. Douching is washing or cleaning out the vagina (also called the birth canal) with water or other mixtures of fluids. Usually douches are prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Women can buy these products at drug and grocery stores. The mixtures usually come in a bottle and can be squirted into the vagina through a tube or nozzle.

Why do women douche?

Women douche because they mistakenly believe it gives many benefits. In reality, douching may do more harm than good. Common reasons women give for using douches include:

  • to clean the vagina
  • to rinse away blood after monthly periods
  • to get rid of odors from the vagina
  • to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • to prevent pregnancy

    How common is douching?

    Douching is common among women in the United States. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of American women aged 15 to 44 years douche regularly. About half of these women douche every week.

    Is douching safe?

    Most doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that women steer clear of douching. All healthy vaginas contain some bacteria and other organisms called the vaginal flora. The normal acidity of the vagina keeps the amount of bacteria down. But douching can change this delicate balance. This may make a woman more prone to vaginal infections. Plus, douching can spread existing vaginal infections up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

    What are the dangers linked to douching?

    Research shows that women who douche regularly have more health problems than women who do not. Doctors are still unsure whether douching causes these problems. Douching may simply be more common in groups of women who tend to have these issues. Health problems linked to douching include:

  • vaginal irritation,
  • vaginal infections called bacterial vaginosis or BV,
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and
    pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman's uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries. It is caused by bacteria that travel from a woman's vagina and cervix up into her reproductive organs. If left untreated, PID can cause fertility problems (difficulties getting pregnant). PID also boosts a woman's chances of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus). Some STDs, BV, and PID can all lead to serious problems during pregnancy. These include infection in the baby, problems with labor, and early delivery.

    Should I douche to clean inside my vagina?

    NO. Doctors and the ACOG suggest women avoid douching completely. Most experts believe that douching increases a woman's chances of infection. The only time a woman should douche is when her doctor recommends it.

    What is the best way to clean my vagina?

    Most doctors say that it is best to let your vagina clean itself. The vagina cleans itself naturally by producing mucous. Women do not need to douche to wash away blood, semen, or vaginal discharge. The vagina gets rid of it alone. Also, it is important to note that even healthy, clean vaginas may have a mild odor.

    Regular washing with warm water and mild soap during baths and showers will keep the outside of the vagina clean and healthy. Doctors suggest women avoid scented tampons, pad, powders and sprays. These products may increase a woman's chances of getting vaginal infections.

    My vagina has a terrible odor, can douching help?

    NO. Douching will only cover up the smell. It will not make it go away. If your vagina has a bad odor, you should call your doctor right away. It could be a sign of a bacterial infection, urinary tract infection, STD or a more serious problem.

    Should I douche to get rid of vaginal discharge, pain, itching, or burning?

    NO. Douching may even make these problems worse. It is very important to call your doctor right away if you have:

  • vaginal discharge with a bad smell
    thick, white or yellowish-green discharge with or without a smell
  • burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina or the area around it
  • pain when urinating
    pain or discomfort during sex

    These may be signs of a bacterial infection, yeast infection, urinary tract infection, or STD. Do not douche before seeing your doctor. This can make it hard for the doctor to figure out what is wrong.

    Can douching after sex prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

    NO. This is a myth. The only way to completely prevent STDs is to not have sex. But practicing safer sex will dramatically decrease your risk of getting these diseases. You can greatly reduce your chances of getting an STD in the following ways:

  • using latex condoms or female condoms every time you have sex
  • avoiding contact with sores on the penis or vagina
  • preventing the exchange of semen, blood, and vaginal secretions

    Can douching after sex stop me from getting pregnant?

    NO. Douching does not prevent pregnancy and should never be used as a means of birth control. Actually, douching may make it easier to get pregnant by pushing the sperm further up into the vagina and cervix.

    Can douching hurt my chances of having a healthy pregnancy?

    It may. Limited research shows that douching may make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. In women trying to get pregnant, those who douched more than once a week took the longest to get pregnant.

    Studies also show that douching may boost a woman's chance of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg attaches to the inside of the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If left untreated, ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. It can also make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant in the future.

    For More Information...
    You can find out more about douching by contacting the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 1-800-994-9662 or the following organizations:

    Food and Drug Administration
    Phone Number(s): (888) 463-6332
    Internet Address: http://www.fda.gov

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America
    Phone Number(s): (800) 230-7526
    Internet Address: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Resource Center
    Phone Number(s): (800) 762-2264 x 192 (for publications requests only)
    Internet Address: http://www.acog.org/

    All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the sources is appreciated.

    Reviewed by:

    Gary G. Wharton, MD
    Clinical Assistant Professor
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Brown University
    Women and Infant's Hospital of Rhode Island
  • Last edited {1}
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    You're welcome! I thought about posting this after watching this young girl in the grocery load up douche boxes in her cart. I wanted to provide her with the information that I've posted here. Most women are unaware that many of the products that are supposed to "treat" the vagina have been manufactured by men who do not understand, and in most cases, simply do not care how our body works. In fact, many of these products, including douches, include ingredients, such as harsh fragrances, that only irritate the vagina and create more problems than they claim to solve. Using a mild, unscented soap is sufficient enough to get the job done. Contrary to what money-hungry marketers will have us to believe, women do not need all of this extra unnecessary stuff down there to get clean. Save your money and don't fall for crafty marketing.
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rowe:
    Using a mild, unscented soap is sufficient enough to get the job done. Contrary to what money-hungry marketers will have us to believe, women do not need all of this extra unnecessary stuff down there to get clean. Save your money and don't fall for crafty marketing.


    This is so true. Thanks Rowe. It is well known within the health community that douching actually increases the possiblity of bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections as well as a host of other things simply by altering the normal protective bacteria (lactobacilli) allowing the bad bugs to increase in number.
    quote:
    Originally posted by folobatuyi:
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rowe:
    Using a mild, unscented soap is sufficient enough to get the job done. Contrary to what money-hungry marketers will have us to believe, women do not need all of this extra unnecessary stuff down there to get clean. Save your money and don't fall for crafty marketing.


    This is so true. Thanks Rowe. It is well known within the health community that douching actually increases the possiblity of bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections as well as a host of other things simply by altering the normal protective bacteria (lactobacilli) allowing the bad bugs to increase in number.


    Wow. Thanks for sharing that information! I think the more information we receive, the less vulnerable we are to getting empty holes in our pockets.
    quote:
    Originally posted by SistahSouljah:
    thanks

    Those douche freaks drive me crazy.

    I think my vagina knows what it's doing. Roll Eyes


    I think this young girl didn't know any better. She's probably just doing what her mother or grandmother has advised her to do. Some women think that by douching, they are getting "extra clean." I knew a sister in college who douched regularly. She didn't feel "clean" unless she did it. I just shook my head whenever she went into the bathroom. These women need to learn that as long as you wash up with soap everday and put on a clean, fresh pair of underwear, then that is good enough! Wearing 100% cotton underwear and avoiding tight pants is also helpful.
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rowe:

    Most women are unaware that many of the products that are supposed to "treat" the vagina have been manufactured by men who do not understand, and in most cases, simply do not care how our body works.


    I assure you that most men care deeply about the proper "care and feeding" of the vagina! bsm
    quote:
    Originally posted by MBM:
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rowe:

    Most women are unaware that many of the products that are supposed to "treat" the vagina have been manufactured by men who do not understand, and in most cases, simply do not care how our body works.


    I assure you that most men care deeply about the proper "care and feeding" of the vagina! bsm


    yeah tfro
    quote:
    I assure you that most men care deeply about the proper "care and feeding" of the vagina!


    Freak! What does one "feed" a vagina? cabbage

    quote:
    Or maybe, she was experiencing odors, itching, discharge, or even burning [i.e., not feeling clean], that is temporarily relieved through douching.


    Douching would be her worst move if she was experiencing those symptoms. She'd have a yeast infection by the end of the day and be burning, itching, etc like a maniac. Eek
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rowe:


  • to clean the vagina

    ---Wash frequently with mild soap and water... change undergarments at least once a day....
  • to rinse away blood after monthly periods

    ---Wash frequently with mild soap and water.... change undergarments at least twice daily....

  • to get rid of odors from the vagina
    ---Wash frequently with mild soap and water.... go "free" at night occassionally.... refrain from restricting clothing.... eat a healthy diet... stay away from too much sugar and dairy.... change undergarments at least daily...

  • to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) ----Abstinence deters this 100%... so will the choice of a healthy monogamous relationship with proper protection... Or marriage to someone who believes the same....


  • to prevent pregnancy Same as above


    How common is douching? Too common...
  • The douche is so yesterday.

    Now there's a whole list of flowery feminine hygiene sprays, powders, and sanitizing films to make us feel good about our vaginas.

    Summer's Eve still still suggests its vinegar up the poon-poon products as something needed.

    I listen to old ladies talk about "back in our day" and a cringe.

    But around the home products became absurd and then women ran to new and improved douches.

    Those were proven to do more harm than good, and then all these other things have taken their place.

    The idea that the vagina is dirty and we need this magic formula to correct it persists.

    I probably would have fallen for it if it wasn't for health classes.

    Sad, yet true.

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