Is Vaginal Douching Safe?
Dr. Saloni Manwani

Dr. Saloni Manwani

Apr 14Sexual health

Is Vaginal Douching Safe?

Douche means to wash or soak. Therefore, vaginal douching is the act of washing the vagina with water or other fluid mixtures. Most store-bought douches are a mixture of water and vinegar, baking soda or iodine, packed into a bottle or bag. For cleaning the vagina, the douche is squirted upwards into the vagina through a tube or nozzle. The fluid mixture then comes back out through the vagina.  

Many women douche to: 

  • Feel fresher
  • Get rid of unpleasant odours
  • Wash off the menstrual blood after their period
  • Avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases
  • Prevent pregnancy after intercourse

 However, none of these reasons to douche is scientifically correct.

Risks of vaginal douching  

Women may feel douching helps them clean up their intimate areas, but it is untrue. Experts do not recommend douching for women as it poses many risks.

1. Vaginal infections

 A healthy vagina has a combination of bacteria that helps in maintaining an acidic environment. The acidic pH level protects the vagina from irritations or vaginal infections. However, douching can alter the balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and the natural acidity that is necessary for a healthy vagina. It can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, leading to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.

2. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

 Douching while having a vaginal infection can push the harmful bacteria further up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, an infection of the reproductive organs. Research suggests that women who douche may have a 73% higher risk of getting a Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

3. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Douching gets rids of the normal bacteria in the vagina meant for protecting you from infections. Therefore, it even puts you at a higher risk of contracting STIs.

4. Pregnancy complications

 Douching may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy by as much as 76%. Doing it frequently also makes it harder for those women to conceive. For pregnant women, there is a risk of vaginal infections during pregnancy and preterm delivery.

5. Cervical cancer

Some studies have found a link between douching and cervical cancer. Women who douche are at a higher risk of getting affected with cervical cancer.

 

Vaginal Douching

If not douche, then what? 

Women don’t need to worry about cleaning the vagina as it is a self-cleansing organ. The vaginal secretions or discharge thoroughly cleans your vagina every day. It washes away the period blood, semen and excess discharge. Hence, women do not need to douche to clean their vagina.  

What are the tips for female genital care? 

Genital hygiene is important to keep harmful bacteria, infections and other complications at bay. Below are a few crucial points to keep in mind:

 Do’s: 

Even though you do not need to clean your vagina as it cleans itself, still washing the outside of the vagina is necessary. While bathing, clean your genitals with warm water. You may use mild soaps if needed. But in case you have sensitive skin or are dealing with vaginal infections, even mild soaps can cause dryness and irritation. Therefore, it is best to adhere to plain warm water and your own hands for thorough cleaning.

 Don’ts:

Avoid using scented tampons and pads during menstruation. Don’t use any scented powders and sprays in your vaginal area. All of these products may increase your chances of getting a vaginal infection. 

How can you prevent vaginal odour? 

If you are struggling with an unpleasant vaginal odour, itching or increased discharge, follow these steps to tackle it. However, if it is still persistent, do visit your doctor for further advice without any delay.

  • Wear cotton underwear at all times
  • Avoid wearing tight pants to allow free flow of air around the genitals
  • Always change your clothes after exercise
  • Regularly change sanitary napkins and tampons during periods
  • Don’t wear panty liners every day
  • If you’re overweight, losing weight can prevent retention of moisture
  • Never use vaginal douches, deodorant wipes and sprays
  • Follow a daily personal hygiene routine - rinse and dry your genitals, use mild soap

How can you manage the vaginal discharge?  

Your vaginal discharge keeps changing throughout the cycle. Generally, you may observe more discharge during the ovulation stage or just before periods, and it is completely natural. This fluid helps in keeping the vagina lubricated and prevents vaginal dryness.  

To prevent abnormal discharge, you must:

  • Keep your genitals dry
  • Wipe front to back, i.e. from the vagina to the anus
  • Wash up after having sexual intercourse

 In case of any abnormal discharges, consult your doctor.

 

When should you visit the doctor?  

If you notice any of the below-mentioned symptoms or any other odd changes in your genital area, make sure to seek advice from your doctor. Generally, any strong odours, irritation or pain indicates something is amiss.

  • Vaginal discharge with a strong smell
  • White or yellow-green vaginal discharge
  • A persistent vaginal odour
  • Burning, itching, and redness or swelling in or around the vagina
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Pain while urination

Read Also: Cervical cancer: Prevention at your fingertips

Bottom line

To conclude, vaginal douching is not known to have any benefits. You are under the wrong impression if you believe that it helps you stay clean and fresh. The vagina is a self-cleansing organ and does not need any cleaning. Instead, focus on following a personal hygiene routine to keep your genital area healthy. Take your doctor’s advice if you are facing any issues like unusual odour, discharge or irritations.



Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

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