Douching is pretty old practice of washing out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids – actually it is the intra-vaginal cleansing process. Vaginal douching is quite common among women – about 25-35% of women douche regularly and they consider it as a part of healthy vaginal hygiene. During last decades the practice of douching has declined however in some cultures it is still very popular. Douching can be done with water or baking soda or vinegar or different water solutions (depending on vaginal smell, vaginal discharge and vaginal itching). Market is full of other products for vaginal douche – antiseptics, fragrances and sweat controlling agents. All mentioned solutions are usually stored in a bottle and sprayed into the vagina through special tube.
Women use vaginal douche for feeling cleaner or for removing unpleasant vaginal odor or for preventing unwanted pregnancy or for washing off the post-menstrual brown discharge or for preventing sexually transmitted infections. Health experts mention that vaginal douching is not necessary and could have adverse effects. In general, healthy vagina has the natural balance of bacteria and normal specific vaginal odor. Vagina is a self cleaning organ. Vaginal douching may change internal environment and make it more favorable for the growth of bacteria that cause infection.
Healthy vagina has naturally occurring so called “microflora” which includes specific bacteria, protozoa and yeasts. Frequent douching usually changes the pH (acid-alkaline coefficient) – internal environment of the vagina. This upsets the natural balance in the vagina making women more prone to infections. Different douching products (antiseptics, fragrances and preservatives) irritate the lining of the vagina allowing bacteria to enter and replicate ultimately causing inflammation.
Vaginal douching advantages
Most advantages include personal feelings and there is very little scientific evidence of benefit from douching.
Feeling cleaner (especially after regular menstrual periods),
Having less vaginal odor,
Avoiding unpleasant vaginal discharge,
Preventing vaginal itching.
Vaginal douching disadvantages
Vaginal infections (bacterial vaginosis) triggered by changes of the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina due douching;
Increased risks of pelvic inflammatory disease (by 70-75%);
Cervical cancer – according to scientific studies, douching at least once a week has been linked to a possible increased chance of developing cervical cancer;
Pregnancy complications – noted increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (by 72-75%) and risk of premature delivery with low birth weight babies;
Infertility – caused by changed vaginal environment (not friendly for spermatozoa movements).
Normal vaginal discharge is a result of natural vaginal cleansing (self-cleaning). Menstrual bleeding is also a kind of cleansing. If women want to have cleaner vagina with better smelling, they should learn some healthy habits:
Private parts should be washed with plain bar soap at least once a day (better 2 times – morning, evening).
Avoid using harsh soaps or cleansers on vulva or inside the vagina – they can change healthy pH balance.
Healthy diet is important for healthy vagina – for example, cranberry juice and yogurt can help to prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections; soy can improve natural lubrication.
Safe sex is absolutely crucial – vagina should be protected from sexually transmitted infections (HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts, Chlamydia) which can cause inflammation, irritation, unpleasant vaginal odor, vaginal itching, intensive colored vaginal discharge and burning sensation.
Never avoid annual visit to gynecologist (starting from 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active) – routine tests will discover all possible risks (infections and cancer).
Wear cotton underwear, avoid thongs and synthetic underwear – cotton can keep vagina clean and dry; synthetic fabrics can increase heat and moisture, potentially leading to bacteria overgrowth and infections.
Avoid wet swimsuits and sweaty workout clothes as quickly as possible.
Always wipe yourself from front to back for avoiding bacterial contamination of the vagina and for reducing risks of bladder infection.
Practice special hygiene during menstruation – change sanitary pads and tampons regularly during your period. To avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), don’t keep the same tampon in for more than 8 hours.
Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.