Seriously, Though — What IS the Deal With Douching?

If you've ever considered trying it — or no longer doing it — here's what you need to know to make a decision.
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If you've ever considered trying it — or no longer doing it — here's what you need to know to make a decision.

Everyone is familiar with the popular slam, “He’s such a douchebag.” Yes, some men are, but do you really know what a douchebag is or why it's so disgusting to be one? 

Some may know about douching from those old commercials about that not-so-fresh feeling. Douching is supposed to make something supposedly icky and smelly turn into something clean and pure. Well, sorry, but vaginas have a smell, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Douching is a hotly debated topic in the world of medicine and gynecology. Some swear by their douchebags — not their significant others, mind you —and refuse to cede them to anyone. Some think that douching is just the worst thing a woman can do to her body. Well, it isn’t quite that bad, but it isn’t exactly a good thing, according to experts. 

What we need is a sensible idea of what douching is, what the advantages are, and what risks you are running. Only when you understand both sides of the story can you make a decision if douching is for you.

Seriously, What Is Douching?

Okay, so douching is a rather old practice, and many younger women may not be aware of what it actually is. Basically, it’s a bath for your vagina. 

The vagina is always putting out something. During your period, it is obviously blood, but during your fertile time, you will also have discharge that is clear. It is designed to aid the sperm in making their way up the vaginal canal. Even on normal days, the vagina secrets small amounts of discharge. If you have an STD, this discharge may smell or look greenish. However, it is normal to have a small amount of vaginal discharge every day.

Douching is a way to essentially stop this discharge. You have a plastic bag full of fluid with a nozzle on the end. You sit on the toilet, insert the nozzle like a tampon, and squeeze the bag. The technical term for this is irrigating the vagina. Some douches are just water, but some have cleansing chemicals and deodorants that make the area smell nice and clean. It depends on your preference which one you use. 

Although shooting water up your vajayjay may not sound like fun, many women swear by it as a method to control odor.

A 1973 douche ad. "So now you can experience that alive, refreshed, really clean feeling in less time than it takes to brush your teeth."

A 1973 douche ad. "So now you can experience that alive, refreshed, really clean feeling in less time than it takes to brush your teeth."

Reasons to Douche

Women have lots of reasons to douche. One very common reason is to clean out the vagina and decrease odor. Some women have an odor from their natural discharge, and unfortunately, this may make them feel uncomfortable. If the scent is particularly strong, you should skip the douching and see a gynecologist. You need to get that checked out to make sure it isn’t an infection because strong odors are not normal. 

Some women also prefer to douche during and after their period to cleanse away the blood and, again, decrease the odor from the discharge.

Other reasons for douching are mostly discredited. Urinary tract infections are common in women, and some think that douching will help to prevent them; research has shown that this is not true. Another reason is that women think it will help prevent STDs — completely untrue. 

The last common misconception is that douching can prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex. Although it will wash away the semen in the vaginal canal, it won’t do a thing for the sperm that have already made it to the uterus; therefore, douching after sex is not a viable way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Reasons Douching Isn’t So Good

Despite the misconceptions about douching, is it really bad for you? If you want to freshen your vagina, then is it really a bad thing? Unfortunately, it is. 

When you douche, you open yourself up to vaginal infections that can make the odor of your discharge worse. Infections develop because douching washes away the normal flora of the vagina. Some of the bacteria that resides there is good for you, and when you wash it away, the vagina is then susceptible to infections that the body would otherwise protect against.

You could also develop pelvic inflammatory disease from douching. This condition is an infection of the reproductive organs, such as the uterus and fallopian tubes. Studies have shown that women who douche are three times as likely to develop this condition. Douching has also been connected to problems during pregnancy; it can lead to ectopic pregnancies, or implants of the embryo outside the uterus, and this can present a danger to the woman. 

Finally, this practice may have a connection to cervical cancer. The research isn’t quite solidified yet, but there does appear to be a correlation between this cancer and douching.

Have you been on the fence about douching? Have you ever tried it?