The only thing worse for your vagina than a guy who is a douchebag, is a literal douche. Okay, maybe not the only thing worse, but still – douching is pretty damn bad. So why do so many women think it’s a good idea? Why do so many stores sell douching products? And what’s the best alternative for keeping your vagina a healthy, happy place?

What is douching?

Douching is the act of washing out the vagina, either with water or a mixture of water and other fluids. Common additives include vinegar, baking soda, and iodine. Douching involves squirting this combination into the vagina, inside your body, and does not include washing the outside of your vagina (the vulva or labia) with water. 

Why do people douche?

It’s estimated that between 20-40% of women aged 15 to 44 in the United States douche, with about half that number doing it on a regular basis. Many women claim that it makes them feel cleaner “down there” or that they feel self-conscious about the natural state of their vaginas. However, there are no proven health benefits to douching. In fact, there are several risks and downfalls associated with the practice.

Don’t let the fact that douches exist and are widely sold trick you into feeling self-conscious about your body. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your vagina or the way it smells or tastes, and anyone (besides your doctor) who tries to tell you otherwise is either a rude hater who you don’t need in your life or sadly misinformed.

What’s so bad about douching?

Douching negatively affects the bacteria and pH levels of a healthy vagina. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ home to many types of bacteria, both helpful and harmful. This balance of bacteria is what keeps the pH levels (acidity) of your vagina healthy, which prevents irritation and infection. When you douche and upset these natural levels, your body can develop more of the harmful bacteria than is necessary. This results in increased risk of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, vaginal dryness, pregnancy complications, and even cervical cancer. Douching after sex increases your risk of contracting STIs, including HIV.

In people who are already suffering from a vaginal infection, douching is especially dangerous, as it can push bacteria up further into the reproductive system towards the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

If you douche before a doctor’s appointment, it can make it difficult for your doctor to accurately diagnose any health concerns you may have.

What is the best way to keep your vagina clean?

As stated above, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ and as such does not require excessive additional care. The best way to maintain a healthy vagina is to gently wash the vulva with warm water (unscented soap is optional) when showering or bathing; cleaning the inside is not necessary. Avoid scented tampons, pads, vaginal deodorants, and other scented products. If you’re worried that your vaginal discharge smells strange or is abnormal, make an appointment with your doctor or local clinic to have it checked out professionally.

In conclusion: just say no to douchebags.

Don’t Douche: It’s Very Bad for Women’s Sexual Health. Psychology Today. Michael Castleman, 4 April 2011. Web. 28 August 2015.
Douching fact sheet. Office on Women’s Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 January 2015. Web. 28 August 2015.
Why You Should Absolutely NEVER Douche. Good Housekeeping. Samantha Escobar, 5 June 2015. Web. 28 August 2015.