An estimated 20 to 40 per cent of women practice, douching, washing or flushing the vagina with water or other fluids. Consultant Gynaecologist Dr Alfred Murage reveals why this and similar practices are unhealthy:
I have come across products being marketed for vaginal cleansing. Should I use them frequently to maintain optimal vaginal health?
Douching is cleaning of the inside of the vagina with water or other cleansing fluids. It is estimated that about one in every four women regularly douche.
Douches are sold as prepackaged mixtures of water and vinegar, baking soda or iodine. The mixture is squirted upwards into the vagina, then washes itself outwards.
There are also other vaginal cleansers labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, which are inserted into the vagina for periods of time. Vaginal douching products are sold without a prescription and for a good reason.
Douching has been linked with both bacterial and fungal infections. If you already have an infection, douching can push up the infective organisms into your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. You may end up with pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a serious condition.
You also get predisposed to sexually transmitted infections and even HIV.
Longer term effects include vaginal dryness and irritation, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Newer studies have even linked douching with an increased risk of gynaecological cancer.
Don’t douche with the notion that you will prevent infections. It’s useless to try to prevent pregnancy by douching.
The vagina has a natural odour which changes as the day advances, and with your cycle. When you douche, you inevitably interfere with the healthy bacterial balance in the vagina. This may worsen anything that you were trying to remedy.
If you are worried about an odour, discharge or unusual irritation, it’s better to get a formal diagnostic evaluation. Then use a proven and specific remedy. If you decide to douche, this is entirely up to you.
Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist. [email protected]