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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Douche?

By Kathleen Howard
Updated May 21, 2024
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A douche is a device that flushes a mixture of water, baking soda, vinegar, and/or fragrance into the vagina. There are both advantages and disadvantages of using a douche. The main advantage of douching is that it temporarily cleanses the vagina of discharge and unpleasant odor. Some women also believe that douching will help them avoid contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and reduce their risk of pregnancy. Contrary to these beliefs, douching actually increases a woman’s risk of contracting an STI, while also increasing the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, and irritation.

Most women douche to reduce odor and remove discharge from the vagina. After menstruation, douching will also cleanse the vagina of any remaining blood. The major benefit of douching is that it makes women feel clean. Some women find that douching leaves them feeling cleaner than washing their external genitalia.

Some women also believe that using a douche after intercourse will reduce their risk of contracting an STI or becoming pregnant. These are two common, but dangerous, misconceptions. Using a douche that contains vinegar, artificial fragrance, baking soda, or iodine will make the vagina more vulnerable to infection. Douching after intercourse can push semen further into the vagina, which will increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. Women who do become pregnant are more likely to suffer complications, like ectopic pregnancy.

While many women are aware of the benefits of douching, the side effects of douching are not as widely known. Aside from increasing a woman’s risk of pregnancy or contracting an STI, douching may lead to a number of other problems. Women who frequently use a douche are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis. This is because using a douche compromises the balance of bacteria in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis often causes women to develop a strong fish-like odor and produce larger amounts of abnormal discharge, which is exactly what women hope to eliminate by douching.

Research has shown that women who douche are also more likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease may cause complications during pregnancy, bleeding, chronic pain, and infertility. Women suffering from this disease may also begin producing an unpleasant-smelling discharge.

To reduce the risk of negative side effects, women who insist on douching should do so safely. One way to practice safe douching is to avoid filling the douche with anything but water. This will cleanse the vagina without eliminating good bacteria. Women should also make sure that their douching supplies are clean, and they should also refrain from forcefully pushing water into the vagina. While douching is not necessary to keep the vagina clean, following these steps will help women avoid negative side effects.

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Discussion Comments

By serenesurface — On Jan 20, 2014

I'm being treated for a serious vaginal yeast infection right now. I used to douche fairly often before but I have stopped douching completely now. My doctor said that the infection is probably due to douching. It's also possible that I didn't notice the symptoms of yeast infection because I was over-cleansing. I was douching to get rid of odor but I didn't know that odor is a sign of infection.

I highly recommend other women not to douche, especially if you suspect an infection. Constant odor, discharge, itching are not normal. Douching may mask these symptoms but it makes the infection worse in the process. So please, don't try to use douching as a treatment.

By candyquilt — On Jan 20, 2014

@ysmina-- You should not douche often. In fact, my doctor tells me never to douche. Even if you douche with only water, you are upsetting the pH balance of your vagina. The vagina is capable of cleaning itself and the natural pH balance helps prevent overgrowth of yeast and bacteria. When you upset this balance, you will be more prone to infections.

Paying attention to hygiene is great, but you don't need to do more than an external cleanse after your period and after intercourse.

By ysmina — On Jan 19, 2014

I just started douching and I think it's great. I'm not douching to treat an infection or anything like that. I just like the clean feel that it gives me. I feel so much better when I douche after my period. It's also a great way to clean up after intercourse. I douche with plain water. I think water is less dangerous than baking soda or vinegar.

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