#HealthCheck: Should You Douche?

First Question: What Exactly is Douching?

Douching is washing or cleaning of the vagina with water, soups, or other fluid mixtures such as lemon, lime or soda water. It usually involves squishing liquids from a tube or device, splashing liquids, or using other devices. It is quite a common practice among women. A 2016 study in Northwest Nigeria reported that 85.5% (more than 2/3) of the 220 studied women, douche. This means that almost 1 in 5 women in the reproductive age (15 – 49) douche.


Why Do Women Douche?

Turns out that the women who douche, do it to clean the vagina; enhance sexual pleasure before sexual intercourse; prevent pregnancy and clean the vagina post intercourse; prevent transmissions of STIs; improve symptoms of itching or pain during infections such as vaginitis and vaginalis; or to get rid of vaginal odour.


How Should You Clean the Vagina?

The vagina is quite unique in its own hygiene (Go Girl Power!). It makes its own mucous substance that washes away other vaginal discharge, blood, or semen. On its own, it has an odour which every woman should identify in themselves. This odour goes through changes throughout the day and a woman should be familiar with these. During increased physical activity the change can be a bit more intense but this is normal. The outside, i.e the vulva, should be gently cleaned with water during bathing. Soaps and scented creams are not essential.

Also the vagina environment, termed vagina flora, is made up of a balanced combination of organisms that make the environment more acidic. Use of soaps, creams, and excessive washing disturbs this balance, exposing women to more infections.

If You Still Decide To Douche, Here Some Health Conditions Linked To That!

Because soaps, creams, washing with fluids is harsh to the vaginal flora, it can cause the following health conditions:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomonas vaginalis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • STIs such as Gonorrhoea and HIV
  • Problems with pregnancy such as ectopic pregnancy (baby conceived outside the uterus), or difficulty conceiving
  • Increased rate of vaginal infections in pregnancy
  • Increased occurrence of cervical cancer

In Nigeria, studies have found increased risk for cervical dysplasia, and STIs such as HIV and vulvovaginal candidiasis!

Definition of Terms:

  • Vaginitis: inflammation of the vagina that can result in itching, discharge or pain
  • Mucus: a slimy substance, typically not miscible with water, secreted by the mucous membranes and glands of animals for lubrication, protection, etc.
  • STIs: sexually transmitted infections

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