||What Is Douching?
Douching is a method for washing the vagina by forcing water or another fluid mixture up into it. It is a practice largely restricted to American women. A survey by University of Rochester Medical Center in New York in 1995 found that 27 percent of American women aged 15 to 44 douched on a regular basis, and that it was more common among African-American women (over 50 percent) than white women (21 percent). Douching equipment is widely available in pharmacies or online in America (click on the view pictures icon above to see examples). Women have practiced douching for hundreds of years, traditionally as a method of birth control and as a way to keep the vagina clean and infection free.
However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest women avoid douching completely unless prescribed to do so by a doctor. The vagina is a self-cleaning environment. If there is a strong odor or irritation it normally means something is wrong and douching may increase the risks of infection. Some naturopaths however maintain that as long as a woman does not douche every day to feel 'fresh', douching can be effective in dealing with occasional infections. Simply put there are pros and cons to douching. Evidence of it's effectiveness is largely antidotal, but on the other hand there is no firm evidence to prove that it causes medical problems.
Many women douche at the end of a menstruation cycle or intercourse to feel 'cleaner' and wash away any odors. If you feel uncomfortable not douching in this instance, you should use plain water or a very diluted mixture of water and white vinegar: 1 tablespoon white vinegar to one quart of water (one commercially sold mixture is Summers Eve Douche). You should douche no more than once a week. When you douche, apply low pressure. It you are using a drainage/douche bag hold it no more than shoulder height or lower.
Some women douche to counteract a vaginal odor, discharge, pain, burning or itching. These are common symptoms of vaginitis or a yeast infection and may require specific treatment. You should try to avoid douching before seeing a doctor as this can interfere with diagnostic tests he may carry out. It may also have the effect of forcing bacterial microorganisms further into the reproductive system and upsetting the vaginal acidity levels. Most clinicians advise women only to douche is if a doctor prescribes it. In the case of a yeast infection, he may recommend a douche to lower the pH of the vagina. See also vaginitis diagnosis for diagnostic information.
Douching is probably one of the oldest forms of birth control - and probably the least effective. Although douching immediately after intercourse may help flush some semen out of the vaginal area (but this is debatable), the fact is, sperm travels quickly. It may already have reached the uterus or fallopian tubes by the time the woman reaches in the bathroom and starts douching. Additionally there is the risk that douching and the excess fluid it introduces may actually speed sperm towards its target! Still, women who are trying for a baby should avoid douching after intercourse, not only because of the risk of washing sperm out, but to avoid the risk of washing bacteria into the uterus and fallopian tubes and causing damage and fertility problems. Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center reviewed studies on women who douched regularly and found that those who later became pregnant had higher rates of infections, ectopic pregnancies and low birth weight babies than those women who douched occasionally or never.
Some women believe that douching may help protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, it does not. The only way to prevent an STD is to practice safe sex, read about STD prevention for more advice.
Under no circumstances should douching be carried out:
If you suspect you have vaginitis, you are better to find out what organism is responsible for causing symptoms before embarking on a course of douches. One study for example found that 65 percent of women who self-diagnosis a yeast infection were incorrect. Even if you had an infection before, and are showing the same symptoms, it can still have a different cause. Knowing the cause is important because different infections respond to different types of treatment. The most common types of douche mixtures work by returning the pH balance in the vagina to normal levels so that good and bad organisms can co-exist at healthy levels.
Baking Soda Solution
Many pharmacies sell pre-mixed baking soda douches, but you can make your own mixture:
1. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 4 cups of warm water. Using a douche bag, purchased from a pharmacy, squirt the mixture into the vagina.
Betadine is a antiseptic which may relieve vaginal irritation and itching, as well as help clear a vaginitis infection. Pre-mixed solutions are available in most pharmacies. Alternatively mix 1 part betadine to 10 parts water and douche twice a week for 2 weeks.
In 2007 the University of Milan carried out a study with 40 women who had bacterial vaginosis (see types of vaginitis). It found that those who douched with a liquid containing a strain of lactobacillus acidophilus showed marked improvement of symptoms. To make an acidophilus douche mix 2 teaspoons of acidophilus powder with one liter of water and douche once a day. It should not be used for more than 5 days or the vaginal walls can become irritated.
For those with recurring yeast infections, fill empty gelatin capsules with boric acid (available at most pharmacies). Insert into the vagina every day for 14 days. Occasionally this can cause vaginal burning.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural-antiseptic which is used by some women to treat bacterial vaginosis. To make a douche, mix 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water. Alternatively soak a tampon for a few minutes in a mixture of 1/3 tea tree oil to 2/3 vitamin E oil, and then insert. Both treatments should be done twice a week for 2 weeks.
Yogurt & Essential Oils
1. Combine 3 drops of either tea tree or lavender with 3 cups of warm water and 2 heaped tablespoons of yogurt.
Dipping Tampons in Yogurt
One old fashioned remedy for treating yeast infections is to dip a tampon in plain natural yogurt and insert it into the vagina and leave for 3 to 4 hours. Repeat the following 3 to 4 days. Studies show that it appears to have some benefit and has little risk. Despite the widespread use of home remedies very little clinical research has been carried out into their actual effectiveness. Until this happens, doctors are likely to continue treating vaginal infections with medications alone.
|Related Articles on Douching
For more reproductive problems, see the following:
Return to homepage: Womens Health Advice