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A stream of liquid used to clean out a body cavity is known as douche. Usually associated with rinsing of the vagina, which is also known as vaginal irrigation, douching may involve the use of plain water or a solution of water and other fluids such as vinegar. Douching may be done to wash the vagina clean, or it may be done to apply medication internally. The liquid is usually squirted into the body using an apparatus known as a douche bag.
Often douching is used by women as a method of personal hygiene. A variety of douches are typically available for purchase over the counter for this purpose. Douche may be applied to the vagina to clear away the remnants of a menstrual period. Some women use it as a means to control unwanted odors. After sexual intercourse, a douche may be used in an attempt to clean out semen in hopes of avoiding pregnancy, though this is not thought to be a very effective method of birth control and may in some cases force sperm further into the vagina.
In some situations, doctors may use douche to assist in treating a medical issue. Women who suffer from chronic vaginal infections from yeast or bacteria may benefit from this type of treatment. The doctor will prescribe a specific solution, different from those sold over the counter for hygiene purposes, and oversee the treatment in these cases.
Despite the fact that many women douche to obtain physical benefits, most doctors and other medical professionals recommend against the practice. Its primary purpose, cleaning the vagina, is generally unnecessary as the vagina has mechanisms for cleaning itself naturally. The mucous secreted by the vagina helps to remove any unwanted substances, including all traces of menstruation. Any unpleasant odors are usually the result of infection or other underlying issues, and therefore should be treated medically, not by douching.
In addition to being considered unnecessary, douching may have negative consequences as well. The vagina maintains a natural, healthy chemical and bacterial balance on its own; introducing a douche may upset that balance, leading to irritation and infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Infections may also travel up to the uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries, leading to more serious issues like pelvic inflammatory disease. Due to its potential damaging effects in the reproductive system, douching may contribute to fertility problems and issues during pregnancy.