Don't douche, please!Monday, August 02, 2021
WE all want to keep our lady bits clean, smelling fresh, and safe from all preventable infections. This has led many women to explore a plethora of feminine hygiene products commercialised as all-in-one picks for achieving all of these, one of them being the douche.
But obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Robyn Khemlani said that not only is it a falsehood that douching can resolve various health and hygiene problems, but it can effectively lead to women developing health conditions, including the very ones that it claims to prevent.
“Women mistakenly believe [that douching] safely cleans the vagina and can prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and vaginal odour. On the contrary, douching doesn't prevent any of these women's health problems; rather, it can cause serious complications,” Dr Khemlani told All Woman.
“Most doctors recommend that women do not douche, and for many reasons. Douching can change the necessary balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and natural acidity in a healthy vagina. A healthy vagina has good and harmful bacteria and the balance of bacteria helps maintain an acidic environment,” she explained.
She underscored that the vagina, which naturally maintains an acidic environment with a pH level of 3.5 to 4.5, is favourable to the healthy bacteria that naturally grows there, and unfavourable to harmful bacteria that might try to move in and wreak havoc.
“Douching can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This can lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you already have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection up into the uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID),” Dr Khemlani warned.
Other health problems and facts that have been linked to the use of douching:
• Douching may increase the risk of problems during pregnancy, including preterm birth and ectopic pregnancies.
• Women who douche are at a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Douching can send the harmful bacteria of these infections higher up into the reproductive system. Often, women can have chlamydia or gonorrhoea without having any symptoms.
•Douching may remove or alter the natural mucous of the vaginal walls, causing vaginal dryness and irritation.
•Women who douche often (once a week) are five times more likely to develop BV than women who do not douche.
•Women who douche are more likely to develop PID, an infection in the reproductive organs that is often caused by an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
According to Dr Khemlani, PID can cause long-term pain in the pelvic region and increase a woman's chance of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. She explained that some research suggests that even if a woman who douches regularly doesn't have PID, she will still take a longer time to conceive than women who don't.
The takeaway, therefore, is that it is best to let your vagina clean itself; it is naturally designed to do this by making mucous that washes away the blood, semen, and vaginal discharge.
However, Dr Khemlani said that what you can do to help keep your vagina clean, healthy and maintaining its natural scent is to wash the outside with warm water when you bathe and avoid scented hygiene products such as tampons, pads, powders, and sprays because these products may increase your chances of getting a vaginal infection.
She warns that for women who douche because of an unpleasant or otherwise embarrassing vaginal odour, no amount of feminine hygiene products will resolve your problem.
“If you notice that your vagina is emitting a strong or unpleasant odour, the answer isn't douching. Instead, you should talk to your obstetrician and gynaecologist, because several health problems, including STDs, may be causing this,” Dr Khemlani advised.
Dr Robyn Khemlani is an obstetrician and gynaecologist at 10A Parkington Plaza /129 Pro/Westminister Medical Center/Oxford Medical Center in Kingston, Jamaica. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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