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Douching: Don't Do It

The expert OB/GYN physicians at Gainesville's All About Women discuss the myths and facts of douching

There's a myth among some American women that douching can solve a variety of problems: it safely cleans the vagina and can prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and vaginal odor.

In fact, douching does not prevent any of these women's health problems — rather, it can cause serious health complications.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women not douche, but despite this recommendation, it’s estimated that 20 to 40 percent of women aged 15 to 44 douche. Nearly half of these women douche every week.

Continue reading to learn the many reasons why OB/GYNs recommend you avoid this out-of-date practice.

What is Douching?

Douche is a French word that means to wash or soak. Douches are often bought prepackaged in stores and contain a mixture of water and vinegar, iodine, or baking soda, or they may even contain a chemical mixture. These mixtures are squirted into the vagina using a tube or nozzle.

Once a recommended medical practice, douching is now known to upset the natural pH of the vagina. The vagina naturally maintains an acidic environment with a pH level of 3.5 to 4.5. This acidic environment is favorable to the healthy bacteria that naturally grow in the vagina, and unfavorable to harmful bacteria that might try to move in.

Water has a pH level of seven, significantly higher than the vagina. Thus, douching with just water only raises the pH level of the vagina. An elevated pH means that the healthy flora of the vagina may struggle to survive, while harmful bacteria begin to thrive.

Health Risks of Douching

This elevated pH level can cause immediate health problems for a woman, including:

  • Vaginal dryness: Douching may remove or alter the natural mucous of the vaginal walls.
  • Bacterial vaginosis: A painful inflammation of the vaginal tissue, bacterial vaginosis occurs when harmful bacteria flourish in the vagina, which is more likely if the natural, healthy bacteria are washed away with douching.
  • Yeast infections: Yeast grows better in less acidic environments.
  • Strong odors

Douching can also put women at risk for longer-term health problems. In fact, the US Department of Health and Humans Services notes that women who douche are more likely to have a sexually transmitted disease. In particular, women who douche may have more extreme cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Douching can send the harmful bacteria of these infections higher into the reproductive system. Often, women can have chlamydia or gonorrhea without having any symptoms. You can read more about these STIs, which can cause infertility, in our article on chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Women who douche also have an increased likelihood of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause long-term pain in the pelvic region and increase a woman's chances of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Some research suggests that even if a woman who douches regularly doesn't have PID, she will still take longer to conceive than women who don't.

Caring for Yourself Without Douching

Your vagina is meant to clean itself, and the more you interfere with its process by douching or using strong soaps or soaps with fragrance, the more likely you are to experience irritation. You can effectively clean yourself with warm water and a washcloth, and mild soap if necessary.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should contact your OB/GYN provider immediately:

  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge
  • Off colored discharge that may or may not have an odor
  • Painful urination
  • Discomfort or pain during sex
  • Redness, burning and or swelling in or around the vagina

These are not normal processes of your vagina, but are signs that you have some type of infection. Douching will not solve your problems but merely mask the symptoms and make it difficult for your OB/GYN to determine the cause of your problem.

All About Women's experienced and compassionate OB/GYN physicians (/preventive-care-services.html), nurses and staff in Gainesville and Lake City are here to address concerns you might have with douching or its associated risks (...as well as all of your other women's health needs from the first gynecological exam through menopause —/well-women-care.html).

Contact us to schedule an appointment, or visit our OB/GYN knowledge center and blog to learn more today.

Contact us
‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center
6440 W Newberry Road, Suite 111
Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 331-3332
Lake City
4447 NW American Lane, Suite 102
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 754-1744

Gainesville and Lake City OB/GYN Care

OB/GYN doctors at All About Women, Obstetrics & Gynecology offer personalized, technologically advanced obstetrics and gynecology services from Board Certified OB/GYB physicians. Besides expert women's healthcare, permanent birth control and prenatal care, OB/GYN doctors also offers advanced hysterectomy surgery in and around the Gainesville area.

Women's Health Care in Alachua & Columbia Counties

With offices in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, All About Women, M.D. provides expert OB/GYN services covering the entire range of women's healthcare needs. Our OB/GYN physicians and nurse midwives provide expert care during pregnancy as well as state of the art in-office treatments for gynecologic disorders including Novasure endometrial ablation to treat/stop heavy menstrual bleeding.

Personalized & Expert Prenatal Care

Gainesville obstetricians at All About Women, M.D. help ensure pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible by offering the best prenatal care available. And for those having difficulty getting pregnant, AAW obstetricians and gynecologists offer couples the best infertility help and treatment available.

Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery: daVinci Surgical System

Clinic founder Dr. Anthony Agrios, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist also specializes in the daVinci Robotic surgery system, a minimally invasive option commonly used for a hysterectomy and other procedures. Instead of creating several small incisions like traditional surgical methods, OB/GYN surgeons simply open one incision with the daVinci system to complete the procedure. Not only do patients experience less pain and blood loss, they recover and get back to normal much faster.

Pregnancy & Prenatal Care: Creative Pregnancy Announcement : Fruits for Pregnant Women

OB/GYN Tips: Choosing an OB/GYN : Robotic Hysterectomy

Infertility & Reproduction Health: Infertility Treatment : Permanent Birth Control

Women's Health: Preventive Care : Well Women Care : Mammogram Screenings : Abnormal Periods

Gainesville Maternity Care


FL OBGYN   Services
All About Women
Gainesville and Lake City, Florida Obstetrics & Gynecology

Offices conveniently located in the heart of North Florida (Alachua County & Columbia County). Serving women of all ages and backgrounds
in and around Ocala, Williston, Chiefland, Perry, Live Oak, Lake City, Starke, Palatka and Gainesville.