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What is douching?

First of all I think we should explain what douching is first. My mother’s generation talked more about douching than the Generation X’ers or Millenials. The French word “douche” translates to mean “wash,” or “soak.” It means washing or cleaning out the vagina (birth canal) with water or other mixtures of fluids. Most douches are prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. You can buy these products at drug and grocery stores. The mixtures usually come in a bottle and can be squirted into the vagina through a tube or nozzle.


Why do women douche?

Through the years women have given several different reasons for douching. Many of these reasons have been passed down for generations. Most women believe that douching helps prevent vaginal odor. Some girls believe that if they have unprotected sex douching can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases/infections. Women have been told when they begin menstruating that they need to douche at the end of every cycle to clean the vagina. None of these reasons are backed by any medical research.


Is douching safe?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as well as most of my colleagues recommend that women avoid the practice of douching. Douching can change the delicate balance of vaginal flora (organisms that live in the vagina) and acidity in a healthy vagina. A healthy vagina has both good and bad bacteria. A balance of the level of bacteria types helps maintain an acidic environment. Any changes can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria, which can lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Additionally, if you have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection further up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Researchers have found that douching has been linked to vaginal irritation, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Douching can also mask symptoms of other problems. It is important to see a doctor when you have any of these symptoms:

  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Thick, white, or yellowish-green discharge with or without an odor
  • Burning, redness, and swelling in or around the vagina
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Significant bleeding other than menstrual

These symptoms can be signs of infection that may be sexually transmitted. If you douche before seeing the doctor it will be difficult for them to receive accurate test results from your vagina. This is also why when you are going to see the gynecologist they tell you do not douche before your visit.

In 2014 it is very difficult to see a commercial about douching. That leads me to believe that it is losing its popularity and more women are listening to their doctors. Douching is not safe. It is better to wash your vagina regularly with soap and warm water. It is also best if you do not use scented tampons, sanitary napkins (pads), powders, and sprays. These products increase your chance of developing vaginal irritation and infection.  If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to Ask Dr. Renee.

Twitter: @AskDrRenee


Dr. Renee Matthews has appeared on television shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and WGN’s “People to People”  where she discussed different health topics. She started her media career with her own radio show on Sirius XM/ReachMD, a programming source for health professionals. In addition Dr. Renee has been a featured medical correspondent on Sirius XM’s “Sway in the Morning.” 

Dr. Renee earned her undergraduate degree in 1999 and her Medical Doctorate in 2005. She spent the early part of her medical career as an educator for numerous hospitals and attending staff on cord blood.


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