Douching is the practice of washing or flushing the vagina with water or other fluids. Vaginal douches are available as prepackaged mixes, most commonly involving water mixed with vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Douches are available at pharmacies and supermarkets.
Is vaginal douching necessary?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women avoid the practice of vaginal douching. Most physicians also do not recommend douching. Douching can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina and can alter the normal pH of the vagina. Changes in the composition of the bacteria that normally reside within the vagina can lead to an increased risk of vaginal infections such as yeast infections. Douching can also cause the spread of harmful bacteria further up into the reproductive tract if an infection is already present in the vagina.
Women who douche state that they do so because they believe it offers health benefits, such as cleaning the vagina, rinsing away blood after menstrual periods, avoiding odor, and preventing pregnancy or infections. However, these beliefs are false, and douching is not necessary to “clean” the vagina. Douching also does not protect against pregnancy or against sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
Can douching be harmful?
Yes, in some women, douching can lead to the spread of an infection or even the development of an infection by altering the balance of normal bacteria that are present in the vagina, as discussed previously. The risk of both bacterial vaginosis and sexually-transmitted diseases may be increased by douching. Douching can also cause vaginal irritation.
What is the best way to clean the vagina?
The vagina produces mucus, which acts as a natural cleansing agent to wash away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge. Washing the outside of the vagina with mild soap and water with regular bathing is sufficient for good hygiene.
Can douching help relieve vaginal discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning?
An abnormal vaginal odor, discharge, or discomfort can signal the presence of an infection, so douching to relieve the symptom would only avoid the underlying problem and might even make the infection worse. If you have abnormal vaginal odor or discharge, pain, burning, or itching, it's important to see your health-care professional for diagnosis and treatment. Douching before the doctor's visit can make it more difficult to diagnose the problem and recommend the right therapy.