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A Common Misconception About Proper Vaginal Care: Douching

March 30, 2022
Miranda Obryan

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH), a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services, has found that nearly 20% of women of childbearing age are douching. What’s the big deal? These women may not realize that douching can be potentially damaging to their health and the practice is not recommended by OBGYNs.

In this post, we will cover:

  • What is douching?
  • How is douching dangerous?
  • Tips for vaginal hygiene without douching

What is Vaginal Douching?

If you’ve never heard the term douche or douching as it relates to vaginal hygiene, you’re not alone. According to Merriam-Webster, douching is defined as an act of cleansing, generally using a jet of liquid to flush out a bodily cavity. You’ve got that right - vaginal douching is a cleansing solution, generally consisting of vinegar-based chemicals, that is flushed into the vaginal canal.

Douching kits can be purchased over the counter at most grocery, drug, and convenience stores. Usually found in the feminine supply aisle, they include:

  • A flexible plastic bottle or bag
  • Soft insertable tube, tip, or nozzle
  • Cleansing solution

Why would a woman douche? There is a common misconception that the vagina needs to be cleaned out occasionally from the inside, especially after menstruation. This is false. The vagina has a delicate natural acidity that keeps it in perfect harmony. It is self-cleaning and does not require any intervention to maintain healthy hygiene.

Read the back of any douche products and you’ll realize that there is no true benefit; companies are simply playing on women’s insecurities regarding feeling “fresh” and “clean” and “removal of  odors.” On each box, you will also find a warning note indicating that douching may cause serious health problems including Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.

Related: How Your Body’s pH Levels Can Affect Your Health

The Dangers of Douching

What’s so dangerous about douching? There are a host of health problems that can result from upsetting your vagina’s natural balance. Those problems can include:

  • Fertility issues
  • Susceptibility to STIs
  • Increased risk of vaginal infections
  • Preterm birth for pregnant women
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Dryness and Irritation

Douching alters the pH of your vagina, upsetting the natural vaginal flora that fends off bad bacteria and other irritations. When your pH becomes imbalanced, a woman is more prone to see infections like bacterial vaginosis. Douching can also remove some of the healthy bacteria that are part of your normal vaginal flora and make you more susceptible to infections including STIs.

Even more dangerous, if you douche while you have an infection, it can push the bacteria up into your other reproductive organs including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. An internal infection of these organs is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder, a serious health concern. Never attempt to self-treat vaginal discharge, foul odors, itching, pain, burning, or discomfort by flushing it out with a douche, which can make the problem worse.

If you’re having any of these symptoms, reach out to My Virtual Physician to schedule an online OBGYN appointment so we can help with proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Clearly, douching is not the best practice for vaginal hygiene. So if you’ve been douching, what is the alternative?

Tips for Proper Vaginal Hygiene

A healthy vagina self-maintains healthy hygiene by producing mucous that washes away any foreign substances like blood, semen, or discharge. A natural mild vaginal scent is normal; your vagina shouldn’t smell like flowers.

If you are noticing an offensive vaginal odor that is not resolved by occasional rinsing of your exterior vulva with water (or occasionally water plus mild soap), that is a clear sign from your body that your natural vaginal flora balance has been upset. Consult your online OBGYN if you need help determining what may be causing an abnormal odor.

Sometimes it’s actually the scented products, meant to mask your natural scent, that can cause your body to protest with pungent odors. Using unscented washes and menstrual products is important to keep unnecessary chemicals, which can interrupt the natural cleansing process, out of the vagina. Give your vagina some time to recover from scented products and douches and you’ll see your vaginal health return.

Related: 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

Conclusion

When it comes to menstrual and vaginal products, women are often targeted with advertising that feeds on their insecurities regarding their natural vaginal scent and cleanliness. Douching is one example of a vaginal product that is not only unnecessary and ineffective, but also has a detrimental effect on a woman’s health.

Have you been fooled into believing that douching is a necessary, normal, or acceptable way to clean the vagina? If so, you’re not alone. We hope to spread awareness around the misconception that douching is appropriate for any purpose when it comes to a clean vagina. Help us spread the word by sharing the dangers of douching with your girlfriends.

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