Origins & Myths

Vaginal douching was a centuries-old practice, the most common reason being for hygiene purposes.  In Hippocrates day (460BC), douching was a common way of cleansing the pelvic cavity due to lack of medications and only physicians and nurses were to perform vaginal douching when absolutely necessary.

Some people have used douches made up of Pepsi, vinegar or Dettol as a method of birth control. This does not work.

The vagina has a very efficient self-cleansing mechanism and routine douching is not recommended as it gets rid of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina.

Do not douche if a condom breaks or after unprotected sex. Douching may force the sperm and possible STIs further up into the uterus.

 

What is douching?

A vaginal douche is a process of rinsing or cleaning the vagina by forcing water or another solution into the vaginal cavity to flush away vaginal discharge or other contents.

What are the dangers of douching?

Douching the vagina changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina and can make a woman more at risk to infections. Douching can introduce new bacteria into the vagina. These bacteria can spread up through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Vaginal douching has many risks.

Douching washes away the normal bacteria that are friendly. Research has shown that women who douche on a routine basis tend to have more problems than women who do not douche.  These problems include vaginal irritation, infections (bacterial vaginosis or BV and candidiasis or thrush) and sexually transmissible infections (STI’s).

Women who douche often are also more at risk for getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  PID is an infection of a woman’s pelvic organs.  It is caused by bacteria, which can travel from a woman’s vagina and cervix up into her pelvic organs.  If left untreated, PID can lead to infertility.

For these reasons, douching is no longer recommended as a safe or healthy way to routinely clean the vagina.

The only safe and healthy way to clean the vagina is to let the vagina clean itself.

How does the vagina clean itself?

The vagina cleans itself naturally with its own mucous secretions. When bathing or showering use warm water and gentle unscented soap to cleanse the outer areas of the vagina. A bath with a few drops of T-Tree oil is a relaxing way of unwinding after a shift. Feminine hygiene products such as soaps, powders, and sprays are not necessary and may lead to irritation of sensitive tissues.

The healthy, normally developed vagina is self-cleaning.

Seek the advice of your doctor or sexual health clinic if any of the following occur:
  • Vaginal pain
  • Vaginal itching
  • Vaginal burning
  • An offensive smell from your vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Any vaginal discharge that is different from your normal discharge such as thick and white, cottage cheese-like, or yellowish-green

These symptoms are indicative of a number of different conditions from yeast infections to bacterial infections, STIs, and urinary tract infections — all of which are treatable with prescription medication. If you suspect you have a vaginal infection contact your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment — don’t try to wash it away with a douche.

For further information or support telephone: Melbourne Sexual Health Centre 03 9341 6200

Information sourced from womenshealth.com, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre www.mshc.org.au 03 9341 6200 & The STI Handbook ©Commonwealth of Australia 2009

For more information phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email sexworker@sexworker.org.au