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Do Women Need to Douche?
Douche means “to wash” or “to soak” in French, and refers to the practice of washing or rinsing out the vagina using water or some other fluid. Douche solutions most often have a water base and can also contain baking soda, vinegar, iodine, and perfume or fragrance.
Researchers believe that 20 to 40 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 douche on a regular basis. About 50 percent of these women douche every week.
But is it good for them?
Absolutely not. Douching serves no good purpose and can, in fact, create health problems for women.
The Drawbacks of Douching
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ. The cervix and the walls of the vagina create a small amount of mucous that carries menstrual blood, old cells, and other matter out of the vagina. Special bacteria in the vagina also help to prevent infections caused by other microbes that don’t belong in the vagina. The normally acidic environment of the vagina is also important for minimising the risk of infection. The healthy vagina represents a fine-tuned, delicate system that douching can easily throw out of whack.
Douching flushes out the normal bacteria in the vagina that are there to fight vaginal infections.
Ironically, many women believe douching will “clean out” the vagina. Whereas douching actually increases the risk of bacterial overgrowth and associated vaginal infections. Douching may also cause pre-existing vaginal infections to travel deeper into the female reproductive system, flushing the infection into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Recent studies have even found that douching can increase the risk of contracting sexual transmitted diseases (STDs).
Myths About Douching
So, why do women douche? Experts say it may be due to a number of myths about douching that have taken root. These myths include:
- Douching is “hygienic,” and part of a woman’s normal cleansing process. Again, no. Douching will wash away menstrual blood and other matter, but it also changes the pH, or the acidity, of the vagina, leaving it vulnerable to infection.
- I need to douche because my vagina has a bad odour. In fact, douching acts like an air freshener — it only hides odors, but doesn’t make them go away. An unusual vaginal odour could be the sign of a bacterial infection, bladder infection, or STD. Only treatment will clear it up, so see your doctor as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that your vagina may simply have a mild odour — this doesn’t mean that you’re “unclean.”
- Douching can prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Douching after sex does not wash semen out of the vagina or prevent pregnancy. Douching has, however, been linked to infertility, and has also been associated with a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus begins developing anywhere outside of the womb, often in the fallopian tube. This is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Douching may also increase the risk that a woman will have a low birth-weight baby.
- Douching can help treat a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, douching can spread vaginal infections further into your pelvis. It may also make it more difficult for your doctor to find and treat your infection since douching disrupts the normal vaginal environment.
Remember that the vagina has built in, self-cleaning abilities. Experts agree that douching is unnecessary and in many cases, may even be harmful.