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To Douche or Not to Douche? ... That is the Question!

Are you a woman still using douching as a method to ‘clean’ your vagina?  If you are, you’re not alone.  Studies say that up to 1 in 4 women use douching.  But it’s time to kick the habit!  Despite some cultural beliefs that douching ‘cleans’ the vagina, the truth is that douching may actually increase our risks for vaginal infections.  The vagina is well equipped with a natural balance of good bacteria, and needs no ‘cleaning’.  Douching can disrupt this balance of protective bacteria, and increase the chances for overgrowth of infectious bacteria, thus increasing our chances for vaginal infection.

So why ARE you douching?  The most common reason for douching is to relieve vaginal odor.  But remember, a strong odor from the vagina may be a sign of a vaginal infection.  If you’re experiencing a strong vaginal odor, a visit with your healthcare provider to screen for infection, not douching, is the right answer.

Though vaginal infection is the most common cause for vaginal odor, it’s not the only reason.

Here is my list of the top 5 reasons for vaginal odor (with some common causes you may not have thought of):

  1. Bacterial Vaginosis—The most common cause of that ‘classic’ fishy odor…you know the one…and the most common of all vaginal infections.  Could be significantly more noticeable after sex.
  2. Yeast Infection—The hallmark signs of a Yeast infection tend to be the itching, burning, and excessive vaginal discharge, and less about odor.  But you could notice a slight musty, ‘yeast-like’ smell.  Though thought to be the most common vaginal infection by many women, Yeast infections are actually second to the more common, Bacterial Vaginosis.
  3. Your period flow—Especially in the last few days when the flow becomes lighter, you may experience odor.  As the slower flow of blood mixes with our vaginal secretions, this static mixture could cause some odor.  That odor is less noticeable in the earlier days, when the flow is heavier, and moving downstream a bit faster.
  4. Leaked urine—As we get older, many women have a ‘weaker’ bladder, and experience leaks or squirts of urine in the day.  Even if it’s not enough to soil your clothing, a small bit of urine left in your undies can produce a strong odor, even if you don’t feel wet.  Make time to empty your bladder before the urge becomes too strong and leakage occurs, and be sure you’ve fully dried off after urinating.
  5. Perspiration/sweat—The groin and vaginal areas are full of sweat glands (like the ones at your armpits,) and can produce odor.  This is easily remedied, try loose clothing, and a shower when needed.

If you’re douching for other reasons, keep in mind that douching serves no role in the prevention of pregnancy, nor in the prevention of STDs.  So the answer to ‘To douche or not to douche’?   From the experts, the answer is a resounding, NO!

Here’s more information on the concerns with douching, from WomensHealth.Gov:

http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/douching.html

 

Suzanne Hall, MD (@drsuzyyhall)


Eastside Gynecology Obstetrics, PC

Offices located in Roseville, Macomb, Grosse Pointe, Rochester, MI

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