Many women believe they need to douche to keep their vagina clean and free of odors. However, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology clearly advises women not to use douches.
Unnecessary, Harmful Practice
This is because there is no medical reason to do so and washing the inside of the vagina can disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria. The vagina is generally able to clean itself and maintain the ideal pH balance. Douching changes the pH of the vagina and this can allow unfriendly bacteria to flourish.
Effect of Bad Bacteria
The result is often vaginal irritation, infections, and various types of complications. To maintain good hygiene, there are several other things you can do. Before we highlight them, let’s make sure we’re clear about what douching is and how it can worsen the condition of your vagina instead of improving it.
What is Douching and Why is It Done?
Douching involves filling a bottle or bag with water or another fluid and squirting it upward into the vagina. Some women use prepared products from the store which may contain iodine, antiseptics, baking soda or fragrances. Others prepare their own mixture of vinegar and water.
Why Clean the Vagina in This Way?
Many women grew up believing that douching is a necessary part of personal hygiene and they use it as a way to get rid of seemingly unpleasant odors in the vagina. Others think douching prevents pregnancy or helps to ensure the vagina is free of semen or menstrual blood. Some even think it can help them to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease. There is no evidence that douching does any of this. Rather, it can be extremely risky.
Why Douching is Unnecessary
Despite all the products you see in the feminine hygiene aisle of the grocery store of pharmacy, you don’t need to douche. Your vagina is supposed to have a natural odor. There is no need to wash away that musky smell or try to make your genitals smell like flowers.
Risks Associated with the Practice
That being said one study found that using vinegar and water may not be harmful if used no more than once a week and not in the middle of your cycle.
However, some of the effects of douching can be severe. The risk of complications is high especially if women are using douching for contraception or prevention of infection.
Douching is not recommended as a form of contraception, but it can make it more difficult for women to conceive. It can also cause complications when pregnancy does occur.
Women who douche regularly may experience:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- An increased likelihood miscarriage
- Early childbirth
Some women believe douching can prevent or cure vaginal infections but it actually increases their chances of developing an infection. When the vagina’s pH balance is thrown out of balance, it can cause bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
Women who douche are five times more likely to get vaginosis than those who don’t. Douching can even cause infections to spread to other parts of the reproductive system.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID affects the reproductive organs and it is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection.
Women who douche frequently increase their risk of PID by 73 percent.
Douching can also mask underlying health problems. Thankfully, there are other, safer ways to ensure the vagina is clean and healthy.
Your Vagina Should Contain Healthy Bacteria
You shouldn’t try to get rid of all the bacteria inside your vagina. Some of it is good for you and unless your immune system is compromised, the good bacteria can fight off the bad ones without your intervention.
What Washing Away Healthy Bacteria Does
When you douche, you leave yourself vulnerable to an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This means the same odor you were trying to prevent may intensify. You may also notice dryness and itching.
How to Prevent Problems
Leave the Vagina Alone
Essentially, you should let the vagina proceed with its self-cleaning routine and you can use gentle products on the vulva. Avoid any sprays, gels or deodorants which attempt to mask the natural smell of the vagina. You can also help to encourage the presence of healthy bacteria. Here’s what to do instead of douching.
Use pH-Balanced Cleansers
Avoid using your usual bath soaps and cleansers inside or near the inside of the vagina. The pH of these products can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria and as you have read, this can be highly problematic.
Keep Your Immune System Healthy
Smoking, poor diet, high stress, and antibiotics can weaken your immune system. When this happens, it will be difficult for your body to fight off bad bacteria which can cause vaginal odors.
Take Probiotics to Keep Unfriendly Bacteria at Bay
Lactobacilli increases the likelihood that good bacteria will outnumber bad, odor-causing bacteria. A high-quality oral probiotic can help to prevent odor and bring relief from symptoms of bacterial vaginosis.
To Wrap Up
The vagina can fight bad bacteria on its own and it can rid itself of menstrual blood and semen. Douching is unnecessary and it can even create the foul odors which women hope to avoid. In some cases, the complications can be severe. If you are worried about vaginal odor or an unusual discharge, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Using a douche to try to fix the problem could mask underlying issues. It is best to treat the vagina gently.