Douching-You shower, put on deodorant, and change your underwear daily, just like your mother taught you. But should you do more? About one in four women in the U.S. add douching to their personal hygiene routine. The women claim that it makes them feel fresh, gets rid of odors, washes away menstrual blood, prevents STDs, and prevents pregnancy. But does douching actually help?

Most health providers say douching is completely ineffective and even harmful. Douching can actually increase your risk for infections and pregnancy complications.

First of all, what is douching? Douching is different from washing the outside of your vagina during a bath or shower. The word “douche” is French for “shower.” In English, it means to wash inside the vagina with water or a combination of water and a cleaning product, such as vinegar, iodine, or baking powder. Douches sold in drugstores additionally typically contain antiseptics and fragrances. These types of douches come in a bottle and are sprayed into the vagina through a nozzle or tube.

However, these harsh soaps and cleansers can interfere with the body’s pH balance. Douching can change the necessary balance of the bacteria and acidity that naturally occurs in the vagina. The vagina maintains itself by creating a mucous discharge. If this balance is altered and washed away, you may end up with sexual, bacterial or yeast infections.

Overall, douching’s negative consequences outweigh any advantages. Here are only a few problems connected to douching:

  • Vaginal infections– Vaginal infections can increase the risk of preterm labor and endometriosis.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease- PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. Research has found that douching significantly increases the likelihood of getting an infection in your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
  • Pregnancy complications – When a woman douches weekly she increase her risk of preterm birth and an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo is outside the uterus.
  • Vaginal irritation and dryness

So how do you stay clean? Rinsing the outside of your vagina with warm water will not harm your vagina. Regular bathing, avoiding tight, restrictive clothing, and changing out of wet or sweaty clothes will prevent unpleasant odors and infections. It’s best just to use unscented soaps and water for cleansing and avoid scented tampons, pads, powders, and sprays. Those extra ingredients can irritate the delicate tissues in your vagina. Your body naturally flushes out and cleans your vagina. Any strong odor or irritation usually means something is wrong; visit with your doctor or nurse if you notice changes.