What is vaginal douching?
The word ''douche'' is a French word for ''wash'' or ''soak.'' Douching in English means washing or cleaning out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Douching requires that you insert a tube inside the vagina and spray fluid into the vagina to wash out the vagina. These fluids can be a mixture of water and vinegar and also comes in other mixtures. Douches that are sold in drugstores and supermarkets contain antiseptics and fragrances. A douche comes in a bottle or bag and is sprayed through a tube upward into the vagina.
The difference between vaginal douching and washing the vulva
Douching is different from washing the outside of your vagina, the vulva, during a bath or shower. Rinsing the outside of your vagina with warm water will not harm your vagina which is inside, while the vulva is on the outside of your body. But, douching can lead to many different health problems. Most doctors do not recommend that women douche because it increases certain complications such as infections, and it also decreases potentially your fertility.
While in the United States, according to the CDC, almost one in five women 15 to 44 years old douche, fortunately, fewer and fewer women are still in the habit of douching. While it might make you feel cleaner in the moment, it can actually have a negative effect on your fertility.
Vaginal douching decreases fertility
Reduced fertility is only one of many negative side effects associated with douching. If you douche regularly and are trying to have a baby, stop as soon as possible. Studies show that women who douche have a more difficult time getting pregnant than those who don’t.
For example, douching increases the risk of and infection called bacterial vaginosis or BV which decreases fertility. Another study showed that douching can decrease fertility by up to 50% in younger women.
The reason douching affects fertility is that women who douche usually are unaware that they have an infection or STD because of the constant douching covers up the symptoms. Odor, discharge, and itching are all signs of infection that are successfully covered up by the act of douching. Many STD’s cause infertility, so ignoring them will only make your attempts at conception futile. On the other hand, if you know that you have an STD, you and your doctor can work on treating it and enhancing your fertility.
Not only can douching lead to an inability to conceive. It has also been linked with preterm delivery and birth defects. Basically, douching throws off the natural balance of your reproductive organs. Your body regulates the number of bacteria at any given moment and douching offsets that balance completely. Since an offset balance has been linked with preterm delivery, it’s important that you maintain it as much as possible.
If you are trying to conceive a healthy baby, douching is the last thing you should be doing regularly. If you feel like you need to cleanse yourself thoroughly after intercourse, simply take a shower as you normally would. Douching is an unnatural process, and the body does not need to be that deeply cleaned regularly. If you do notice a foul odor or discharge, see your gynecologist as soon as possible. Douching will not cure an infection or STD, it will only hide the symptoms as the problem grows worse. By taking care of the problem quickly, you can minimize the damage and prevent the possibility of permanent infertility. Also, talk to your gynecologist about ways to clean your vagina without douching. Once the possibility of infection has been ruled out, the cleaning process should be simple and easy, and it won’t interfere with your ability to conceive a healthy and happy baby that grows to term.
Source: Donna Day Baird et al: Vaginal Douching and Reduced Fertility. American Journal of Public Health Volume 86 Issue 6 June 1996.