Vaginal douching is a common hygiene practice that has been around for years. Common reasons for douching pertain to feminine odor and deep vaginal cleansing. Yet, other reasons a woman might choose to douche relate to the prevention of STDs and pregnancy. Regardless of the popularity of this common practice, there is no actual evidence that douching has an effect on feminine odor, and it’s an unreliable form of pregnancy and STD prevention. Indeed, douching has been linked to having a negative impact on vaginal health and well-being. If douching is a regular practice in your feminine health regimen it’s important you understand the four side effects associated with vaginal douching.
Douching Increases Vaginal Infections
There is a colony of healthy and beneficial bacteria that make up the vaginal flora. Similar to gut flora the vaginal flora works to protect the vagina from an overproduction of bad bacteria and yeast. When a vaginal imbalance occurs this can increase your risk of a vaginal infection.
Using douches on a regular basis interferes with your vagina’s natural ability to protect itself by removing all of the healthy bacteria from the vaginal flora. Each time you douche you increase your risk of a vaginal imbalance. This can encourage bad bacteria and yeast to overpower the healthy bacteria and cause vaginal infections. Indeed, yeast infections and bacterial infections occur due to high levels of bad bacteria and candida (yeast).
Douching Increases Vaginal Dryness
In addition to causing vaginal imbalances douching can also dry out the vaginal area and increase irritation. This is due in large part to the ingredients that are used in douches. Ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda may deplete the vagina of essential moisture. These same ingredients can also interfere with the production of healthy cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is important for lubricating, cleaning, and protecting the vagina. It also plays an important role in the conception process and aids in fertilization. Also if you are using a natural birth control method this interference with cervical mucus production can prevent accurate fertility tracking.
Additionally, other ingredients found in douches can increase sensitivity and irritation. Mainly fragrance ingredients and strong antiseptics can cause sensitivities. These ingredients also cause vaginal pH imbalance which can contribute to abnormal odor and increased risk of bacterial infections.
Increased Pregnancy Complications
Participating in regular douching may make it increasingly difficult for you to conceive. One reason for this could be due to the fact that douching interferes with normal cervical mucus production. Fertile cervical mucus plays a vital role in the conception process. It is responsible for helping encourage the penetration of sperm into the vagina and aiding in its travel up into the cervix. Another benefit of healthy fertile cervical mucus is its ability to provide nourishment to sperm. This increases the sperm’s ability to thrive in the acidic vaginal environment and encourages fertilization.
Another pregnancy complication that can arise from using douches is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo fails to travel down the fallopian tube and attach to the uterine lining. Instead, it implants in the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies are a serious issue that causes significant risks and need to be addressed immediately.
Increased Risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
There is a link between douching and increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. The Center for Disease Control states that women who are sexually active and douche regularly have a higher risk of contracting a pelvic inflammatory disease. This is due to unhealthy changes in the vaginal flora which is caused by douching. Consequently, these bacterial imbalances can leave you vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections due to your vagina’s inability to ward off unhealthy bacteria. It’s important to understand that douching should not be used as a contraceptive or to prevent STDs.
How to Maintain Vaginal Health
The best way to maintain a healthy vaginal flora is to not use products that interfere with your vagina’s natural ecosystem. You may feel the need to cleanse the vagina especially following your period but this is not necessary. When it comes to cleansing the vagina douches are not needed because your body performs these tasks naturally. This job should be left to the cervical mucus which is responsible for vaginal health. Healthy and beneficial ways to cleanse the external vaginal area involve using a fragrance-free wash to gently cleanse the outer vaginal area and warm water. Never use these products internally since they increase vaginal imbalances.
Many women feel insecure in regard to feminine odor. Hence the presence of products on the market that promise to help decrease the presence of feminine odor. Yet, experiencing a natural musky aroma is normal. Typically changes in feminine odor occur due to exercise, daily activities, menstruation, and/or sexual intercourse. Following proper feminine hygiene practices such as proper cleansing, wearing cotton underwear, and taking probiotics can help counteract the strong feminine odor.
On the other hand, struggling with fishy or foul-smelling odor accompanied by grey or greenish discharge typically indicates a vaginal infection. In this case, using a douche is definitely not indicated and can cause further complications. It is best if you are noticing such symptoms that you schedule an appointment with your gynecologist so you can achieve a proper diagnosis. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication you need to alleviate symptoms and restore vaginal health.