A douche is a method of rinsing or cleaning out the vagina by squirting water or other solutions into it. Healthcare providers don't recommend the use of these products to clean the vagina. This is because using these products changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina (and the vaginal flora), and this can make a woman more prone to bacterial infections or trouble getting pregnant.
To douche means to rinse or clean out the vagina (also called the birth canal) by squirting water or other solutions (such as vinegar, baking soda, or douching solutions) into the vagina. The water or solutions are held in a bottle and squirted into the vagina through tubing and a nozzle.
Douching is a practice that is thought to have been around since ancient times. Reasons women have given for using douches include to:
- Rinse away blood after a menstrual period
- Clean the vagina after sex
- Avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Wash away semen to prevent pregnancy
- Reduce odors.
Douching is a common practice among women in the United States. In fact, approximately 37 percent of American women between the ages of 15 to 44 douche regularly. Of these women, about half douche on a weekly basis.
Healthcare providers do not recommend douching to clean the vagina. A douche changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina (and the vaginal flora), which can make a woman more prone to bacterial infections. It can also spread existing vaginal or cervical infections up into the pelvic organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries).
Research shows that women who douche on a routine basis tend to have more problems than women who do not douche or who rarely douche. These problems include vaginal irritation, infections (called bacterial vaginosis or BV), and sexually transmitted diseases. Women who douche often are also more at risk for getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of a woman's pelvic organs. It is caused by bacteria, which can travel from a woman's vagina and cervix up into her pelvic organs. If left untreated, PID can lead to infertility (not being able to get pregnant) and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus). Both BV and PID can lead to serious problems during pregnancy, such as:
- Infection in the baby
- Problems with labor
- Early delivery.