One in four women in the US douche at least once a month. Douching is more common among black women than white women or Hispanic women. Women often use either over-the-counter commercial products or a mixture of vinegar and water, hydrogen peroxide and water, or yoghurt. I have also read about people douching with Tree Tea Oil, Fenugreek, Coconut Oil, and even garlic.
Regardless of what product or substance is used for douching, it alters the vaginal flora (the vaginal microbiome) and is harmful for trying to get pregnant and staying pregnant.
Women douche for many reasons. Some believe that the vagina needs periodic cleaning like other parts of our body. Others want to alter the natural odor of the vagina. Opinions of mothers, peers, and health professionals impact a woman’s decision to douche. Not surprisingly, the marketing of commercial douching products also affects douching behavior.
Do You Need to Douche?
There is no medical reason for a woman to douche. The vagina cleans itself naturally by making mucus. The mucus washes away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge. If you are worried about vaginal odor, talk to your doctor or nurse, but you should know that even healthy, clean vaginas have a mild odor that changes throughout the day. Physical activity also can give your vagina a stronger, muskier scent, but this is still normal. Any unusual or strong odor usually means something is wrong and you need to see a doctor.
Not only is douching not necessary, it can be harmful. Research has shown that douching is associated with serious gynecologic problems, including increased risk of cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometritis, and increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Reasons Not to Douche When Trying to Get Pregnant or You are Pregnant
Regardless how you feel about douching in general, you should not douche if you are trying to get pregnant or you are pregnant. Why? Here are six good reasons.
- Women who douche at least once a month are 30% less likely to get pregnant.
- Douching at least once per month was associated with an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis (vaginal infection).
- Douching increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg attaches to the inside of the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If left untreated, ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. It can also make it hard for a woman to get pregnant in the future.
- Douching increases the risk of premature birth.
- Douching increases the likelihood that your baby will have low birth weight.
- Douching increase the risk of chorioamnionitis, an infection of the fetal membranes and amniotic fluid.
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