Should You Douche
By Naweko San-Joyz
The only thing a woman can say for certain about her vagina is that it is drenched in mystery. And with this
mystery comes a bounty of myths. One myth marring the woman’s body is the concept that her vagina is a filthy pit.
Frequent marketing of feminine douches does nothing to arrest this myth. But is the vagina dirty and should a woman
A substantial body of medical evidence makes a clear case that douching is not necessary and in some cases
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh led by Dr. Roberta Ness discovered that most women are introduced
to the concept of douching by their mothers, sisters, or girlfriends. Yet this well-intentioned sisterly advice has
left too many women misinformed about their vaginal health. For instance, a study at the University of Alabama at
Birmingham asked 729 women why they douched. Twenty-one percent of the participants said that they believed
douching killed infectious germs, while 27% believed that douching prevented pregnancy. Neither assumption is
As writer Mary Ann Innacchinoe explains in an "American Journal of Nursing" article, the vagina contains,
lactobacilli, "good", aerobic bacteria that cleanse the vagina and protect it from infection. Lactobacilli release
hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant. The presence of hydrogen peroxide helps keep potentially harmful
anaerobic bacteria in balance.
Ironically, some women view menstruation as a time when the vagina most needs a douche. After menstruation,
vaginal mucus returns to its thicker, characteristically non-fertile state, which makes it more difficult for
pathogens to enter and infect the vagina. Douching could wash this protective coating away and invite vaginal
bacterial imbalances and infections. For example, a 2004 study published in the medical journal "Sexually
Transmitted Diseases" linked douching after menses with an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis, or an excess of harmful bacteria in the vagina, is one of the most common reasons women
visit their gynecologist. Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include a gray or frothy vaginal discharge, a "fishy"
odor after intercourse, vaginal itching and a vaginal pH greater than 4.5.
While douching can provoke bacterial vaginosis, it may also encourage the herpes virus. In 2003, researchers
from the Magee-Womens Research Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania questioned why women are more susceptible to
the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection than men. After examining 1207 women aged 18 to 30 from three
Pittsburgh health clinics, the investigators noted that women who douche, smoke, have sex with uncircumcised
partners, or have bacterial vaginosis are at greater risk for contracting an HSV-2 infection.
Nevertheless, Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of "Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom", recommends douching in one
instance, after having made love three times in one day. But sperm must have been released into the vagina during
each round of intercourse. Northrup cautions that after such an entry of sperm, the vagina will not return to its
normal pH for another twenty-four hours. Using a vinegar douche, made by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a quart
of water, may help restore the vaginal pH balance faster. Note, this douche is by no means meant to serve as a
contraceptive, only as a pH balancer.
The vagina deservingly derived its name for the Latin word meaning "sheath". While the vagina sheathes, or holds
many mysteries, the truth about this enigmatic organ will only come forth by asking for the truth, not by believing
hearsay or fanciful medical ills crafted by marketers. At least now a woman can say with certainty when she should
and should not douche.
Cherpes, Thomas L. et al. "Risk Factors for Infection With Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2: Role of Smoking,
Douching, Uncircumcised Males, and Vaginal Flora", Sexually Transmitted Diseases, May2003, Vol. 30 Issue 5,
Innacchinoe, Mary Ann. "The Vagina Dialogues: Do You Douche?" American Journal of Nursing; Jan2004, Vol. 104
Issue 1, p40.
Martino, Jenny L. & Surasak Youngpairoj, Sten H. Vermund. "Vaginal Douching: Personal Practices and Public
Policies", Journal of Women's Health, Nov2004, Vol. 13 Issue 9, p1048.
Ness, Roberta B. et al. "Why Women Douche and Why They May or May Not Stop", Sexually Transmitted Diseases,
Jan2003, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p71.
Oh, M. Kim et al. "Early Onset of Vaginal Douching Is Associated With False Beliefs and High-Risk Behavior",
Sexually Transmitted Diseases, May2003, Vol. 30 Issue 5, p405.
Schwebke, Jane E. &, Renee A.Desmond, M. Kim Oh. "Predictors of Bacterial Vaginosis in Adolescent Women Who
Douche", Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Jul2004, Vol. 31 Issue 7, p433.
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