Almost 20% of women aged 15 to 44 years old douche, which is the harmful act of cleaning or washing out the inside of the vagina with a mixture of fluids. Douches are often sold at as prepackaged mixtures containing water with some combination of iodine, vinegar, or baking soda and squirted into the vagina. While it is popularly known to be a sterilizing practice, douching actually changes the balance of vaginal flora (which is the good, natural bacteria inside the vagina) and increases rates of harmful vaginal bacteria. This bacterial increase can lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis (a vaginal infection), or STIs including HIV and pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection in female reproductive organs).


Douching can also cause fertility challenges. It can make it more difficult to get pregnant, as women who did not douche had an easier time getting pregnant than women who douched often (at least once a month). Douching can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy because it can damage the fallopian tubes. This can be life threatening. Finally, women who douche during pregnancy are more likely to deliver prematurely, which can cause health problems for both the pregnant woman and her baby. As a whole, douching is a harmful practice and many positive narratives that exist about douching are false. The vagina cleans itself naturally through a healthy and effective process.

Image credit: Teen Vogue


Bacterial vaginosis | Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.).
Baird, D. D., Weinberg, C. R., Voigt, L. F., & Daling, J. R. (1996). Vaginal douching and reduced fertility. American Journal of Public Health, 86(6), 844–850. 
Chandra, A., Martinez, G. M., Mosher, W. D., Abma, J. C., & Jones, J. (2005). Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth [Data set].
Misra, D. P., & Trabert, B. (2007). Vaginal douching and risk of preterm birth among African American women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 196(2), 140.e1-8.
OASH, Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.). Douching. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Pelvic inflammatory disease | Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.).

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