Douching is an old practice of washing out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. “Douche” is a French word that means to wash or soak and herbal concoctions, commercial preparations, as well as home remedies using baking soda or vinegar and water solutions are commonly used. These preparations or water alone are stored in a bottle is sprayed into the vagina through a tube. Although an old practice, douching is quite common among American women, and it is estimated that 20% to 40% of women aged between 15 and 44 years douche regularly.
However health experts say that douching is not necessary and may have adverse effects. Women douche because they feel like they have an unpleasant vaginal odor and douching makes them feel clean but the vagina is a self cleaning organ and douching causes more complications than being beneficial to a woman.
Complications of Douching
- The vagina has naturally occurring microflora (bacteria, protozoa or yeasts) and frequent douching changes the pH (acid-alkaline) of the internal environment of the vagina. This upsets the natural balance of microflora in the vagina making a woman more prone to infections. Douching products contain antiseptics, fragrances and preservatives which irritates the lining of the vagina allowing organisms to enter and replicate ultimately causing inflammation. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of vaginal infection among women of childbearing age, and the infection increases the risk of preterm labour (premature babies).
- Some women douche following intercourse under the misconception that douching will prevent them from falling pregnant and/or contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Recent studies have proven otherwise and suggests that douching fluid may carry STD-causing infectious agents deeper into the female genital tract thus spreading the infection.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs (cervix, vagina,uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries). Spread of infection from the lower female genital tract to the upper genital tract results in PID. STD’s are a common cause of PID and research has shown that women who douche have a 73% increase in risk of pelvic inflammatory disease in comparison with those who do not douche. PID also predisposes a woman to cervical cancer.
- PID if left untreated has serious consequences in pregnancy and it can even decrease the chances of falling pregnant. There is also an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy in patients who have PID. The embryo implants itself outside the uterus, in the fallopian tubes and this can be dangerous, both for mother and the developing fetus.
- Women who douche while pregnant may cause bacteria to enter the amniotic sac and affect pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who douche two or three times a week have a more likely chance of delivering a child with a low birth weight than women who do not douche at all.
Over the years, the practice of douching has declined however in some cultures it is still widely practised. Evidence clearly dictates that douching is not necessary and women make themselves more vulnerable to various complications rather than obtaining any benefits. Women should be educated from a young age on the importance of not using vaginal douches in order to prevent these complications associated with douching.
- Vaginal Douching: Helpful or Harmful. WebMD
- Vaginal Douche. Medicinenet