“Douche” is basically a French word for “soak” or “wash”. It is performed as a way of washing out the vagina internally, very often in combination with vinegar and water. The process involves using a mild solution. Most of the douches available at drugstores come in pre-packaged and ready for use form. Many of these available douches also contain fragrances as well as antiseptics. The smaller end inserted to rinse off the inner area of vagina.
Different products and methods are used by women from varied cultures to accomplish the douching process. Some may use lain water unlike others who opt for vinegar and water. Many others may even go for different antiseptics and medicated solutions. The douching process may be performed as a simple cleaning process using the cleaning liquid or even in the form of high pressure forced into the vagina through a bag or similar douching device.
As proved by research studies, about 20-40% of women aged between 15-44years advocate using a vaginal douche. Even higher rates have been observed in American-African teens and Hispanic women. Being asked for reasons to adopt douching, following were the replies obtained:
- to condense vaginal odors
- to rinse off the menstrual blood
- to avoid the chances of sexually transmitted diseases
- to avoid getting pregnant
- to feel cleaner and fresher
However, health experts and doctors do not recommend douching as an effective choice for any of the aforesaid reasons for there is no scientific evidence to support douching benefits. Besides, it is also presaged that douching actually makes you more susceptible to infections besides increasing complications in conceiving and other health problems.
Douching: Safe or not?
Research studies have clearly stated that douching is accompanied with numerous health risks. The feel fresh factor is traded-off by the most essential activity in female vagina which is responsible for regulating the bacteria levels. Women involved in douching experience alteration in healthy balance of the vaginal flora. As opposed to reducing diseases and infections, douching can rather lead to increased chances of health problems like:
- irritation in vagina
- infection like bacterial vaginoses
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- low birth weight
- recurrent vulvo-vaginal candidacies
- sexually transmitted diseases (STD) like HIV
- cervical cancer
However, it should be noted that many of these impending douching risks are not a full stop. There are many initial health problems arising from the douching process. These initial health problems may further be a cause for additional health problems. For instance, pelvic inflammatory disease may add to the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
The benefits of douching are generally outweighed by the risks involved in the process. Below are just some of the most general after effects of douching:
More commonly known as bacterial vaginoses, this is the most common after effect of douching process. The vagina performs the process of self cleaning by releasing discharge to remove old cells besides maintaining the good and bad bacteria population. This delicate and natural balance (also known as vaginal flora) is altered by douching. These alterations make the vaginal area more prone to bacteria growth thus causing infection.
If the douching process is performed with the purpose of cleaning the vaginal discharge for its appearance or foul smell, one might end up pushing the infection causing bacteria into reproductive organs like cervix, uterus, and the fallopian tubes. Moreover, it has also been proved through research studies that women, who are not involved in douching or have discontinued the process, were less prone to bacterial vaginoses. Furthermore, douching during pregnancy increases baby’s risk of contracting infections.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
This is a type of infection in uterus, ovaries, and/or the fallopian tubes. Research studies have proved that those involved in the douching process are 73% more susceptible to pelvic inflammatory diseases. If douching is being done for reasons like removal of vaginal discharge or odor, it can be risky because this odor or discharge can be the symptom of serious health problems like trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, or gonorrhea. Actually, douching may result in forcing the bacterial organisms to the uterus thus increasing the susceptibility of PID.
It is a misconception that douching reduces the risk of getting pregnant after sexual intercourse. Instead, douching reduces the conception chances. Besides, performing the douching process more often raises the risk of ectopic pregnancy by almost 76%. An ectopic pregnancy is a condition where the embryo gets implanted in the fallopian tubes, outside the uterus. Regular and frequent increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy which can be life-threatening and is, therefore, not viable. Also, scarring or annihilation of the fallopian tube may also make you incapable of getting pregnant throughout your life.
Douching contributes largely to secondary infertility. This is a condition where a woman has been pregnant in past but is no more capable of giving birth to a child.
The chances of getting cervical cancer are more with frequent douching.
Research studies have also analyzed douching effects on birth outcomes. It has been found that douching during pregnancy increases the risk of pre-term birth, i.e. before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This pre-term delivery can be due to bacterial infection which doubles the risk of pre-term labor.
Increased pH levels
There are numerous factors affecting the pH balance in your body. These factors include contraceptive pills, diet, diabetic conditions, antibiotics, as well as your mental and emotional state. Besides all these, douching also contributes a great deal to increasing the pH levels because of the chemical base featured by over-the-counter douches.
Since douching results in imbalanced pH levels in the vagina, it may further lead to yeast infections. The evidence of an imbalance in pH levels indicates excessive multiplication of the naturally existing candida albicans cells. The count of these cells is, however, controlled and regulated according to the pH level. This is the basic cause for yeast infection. Doing away with the infection involves restoring the pH balance to normalize the population of candida albicans cells.
Douching is used by many women as a way to personal hygiene. However, the best way to keep your vagina clean is allowing it to get cleaned up by itself. Alternatively, you can wash it with a mild soap and warm water while taking a shower to keep the exterior of your vagina clean and healthy.