Douching is a vaginal cleansing technique that has been around for many years. A douche is used to introduce water, or other solutions, such as vinegar into the vagina to rid it of impurities. Just like water, douching with apple cider vinegar can disrupt vaginal pH. There have not been any proven medical benefits of douching with water or douching with any other solutions at the time of this publication.
Douching with water after period as well as post-coital douching are practices that can disrupt the vaginal microbiome and can lead to adverse outcomes. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and does not require physical cleaning. The vulva, however, can be gently cleaned with warm water and non-toxic mild soap or liquid wash. Today’s topic covers douching beliefs many women still stand by.
“Douching detoxifies the vagina”
The only detox your vagina need is its own self-cleaning mechanism. The only thing you are potentially removing from your vagina by douching is the ‘good’ bacteria, which is there to provide protection and defense. You can be placing your vaginal health at risk by douching.
“Douching prevents pregnancy”
There are many home remedies shared that claim to help prevent pregnancy and douching is one of those. This practice can perform the opposite action. Asides from leaving you vulnerable to pelvic infections, douching can increase your chances of becoming pregnant by encouraging the sperm further into your uterus. Also, this can irritate your vaginal canal and can cause potential complications during pregnancy.
“Douching prevents sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”
This is not an effective way to prevent STIs. Douche solutions and improper cleaning of douche devices can introduce unwanted bacteria into the vaginal canal. An improper balance in the vaginal ecosystem can leave you prone to infections.
“Douching stops vaginal discharge”
Some people douche due to concerns about vaginal excretions. Vaginal discharge can be normal depending on color and consistency. It is best to visit your healthcare provider if you are concerned. If you want to learn more about vaginal health and discharge, this book by Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN provides extremely helpful information.
“Douching prevents vaginal odor”
Unpleasant vaginal odor can be caused by many different factors and the regular use of a douche can also be a culprit. You are disrupting the normal vaginal ecosystem by introducing douche mixtures into your vagina. This practice can also possibly remove good vaginal bacteria, which can lead to an imbalance between beneficial and detrimental bacteria.
Physiologic causes of vaginal odor
The release of hormones before and after your menstrual cycle can change/increase vaginal pH. This can cause your vagina to emit an odor.
Your external genitalia has sweat glands. Sweat, in this region, just like other parts of your body equipped with sweat glands, is a physiologic mechanism that the body uses to control temperature. When your sweat joins with the bacteria present on your vulva, it can lead to odor.
External factors that can contribute to vaginal odor
There are personal choices that can also cause the presence of unpleasant vaginal odors. The main topic of discussion today, which is douching, can also be a cause. This practice can promote vaginal infections due to the disruption of the natural vaginal environment leading to odor.
You may also be making hygiene mistakes that are putting your vaginal health at risk. Other factors to name a few, are tight clothing, and long wear of sanitary pads, which can cause moisture retention. Switching to moisture-wicking underwear, and frequently changing your liners/pads can be helpful.