Douching may cause infection

A douche seems like the perfect solution for women experiencing odor, discharge or infection in the vagina. What you don’t know is that as you try to rid yourself of these semi-normal conditions, you may be doing more harm than good.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women avoid douching because it can hide symptoms of an infection and/or push the infection farther up the reproductive organs.

According to the African American Women Evolving Inc.’s Healthy Vagina Campaign, a vaginal douche is a process of rinsing or cleaning the vagina by forcing water or another water-based solution (vinegar, baking soda or commercial douching solutions) into the vaginal cavity to flush away vaginal discharge or other contents.

Researchers at the ACOG concluded that health problems linked to douching include: vaginal irritation, vaginal infections called bacterial vaginosis or BV, STDs and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Dr. Mary Shannahan of the Healthy Pregnancy Network Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition, said it is important women become aware of the side effects of douching. “You can be at higher risk for pelvic inflammatory disease and increase your chances of infection rather than decrease it,” Shannahan said.

According to the CAHSC Web site, women who douche are also more likely to have babies that are born too soon or too small.

These babies may die or have lifelong health problems.

Black women lose pregnancies twice as often as white women. And black women are also three times more likely to give birth prematurely.

Yvette Coleman, 21, a junior political science student from Atlanta said she douches to maintain good hygiene.

“I douche because I think it’s hygienic, but after hearing about the long- and short-term side effects I’m going to stop,” she said.

According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection.

Even though there is no documented alternative to douching, Shannahan advises that you practice safe sex so you don’t get an STD, which could lead to an unpleasant odor and infection.

Other ways to keep yourself clean include: wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight pants and clothing which traps sweat, and wiping front to back.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 27 percent (an estimated 16 million) of U.S. women ages 15-44 douche regularly.

About half of these women douche every week and over half of them are black.

Studies show that douching is more common among black women; about 50 percent douches, compared to 21 percent of white women.

“More African Americas than non African Americans douche in the Big Bend area,” Shannahan said. “I think it’s cultural to this area and many people identify douching with hygiene.

“In other parts of Florida women have never douched and in some instances haven’t even heard about it before they come here,” said Shannahan, who works closely with organizations, churches and salons to make people aware about the dangers of douching.

According to the Web site,, vaginal douches are available over-the-counter and are made in a variety of fragrances by several manufacturers; they are also available by prescription to treat certain conditions or prepare for certain procedures.

Shannahan recommends that you see your health care provider if something seems unusual.

For more information contact the National Women’s Health Information Center at (800) 994-9662.

Contact Malika Harrison at