Every woman has to go through the experience of getting her period. We all know how inevitable and inconvenient it is. Moreover, we all have the experience of trying to keep “down there” clean. It is one of the things that make us all self-conscious.
It can be relatively easy to take a thorough shower and wash under our arms, then apply deodorant. That takes care of concerns about regular body odor. However, women are often still concerned about vaginal odor. Our vaginas are designed to have discharge and, of course, to expel blood during our period.
The answer to this concern about vaginal odor has been to douche. Many women simply don’t feel clean unless they douche regularly. Many women feel a particularly strong need to douche during their period. After all, menstrual blood is messy and it can have a distinct odor, but is douching during your period a good idea?
Let’s begin to answer that question by looking at just what douches are. The word douche comes from the French for “to wash” or “to soak.” That is pretty much exactly what a douche does.
They are widely sold in supermarkets, drugstores and big box stores, like Wal-Mart. They are typically a bottle or bag with a tube that you insert into your vagina. The contents of the bottle or the bag are then squeezed into the vagina. The contents are usually water and/or vinegar based. Depending on the particular brand you use, they may also contain other chemicals and scents.
Why do women use douches?
The most common reason is to feel clean. Women use douches because they feel that douching cleans their vagina and gets rid of menstrual blood. They use douches because they are concerned about vaginal odor. Women have also used douches because they believe it will help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. It should be noted that douching does not prevent pregnancy. It is certainly no substitute for using effective birth control. It also does nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Using condoms is still the most effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Doctors strongly warn against thinking that you can use douching as a means to prevent either pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, douching can be a threat to your reproductive health. Some studies have linked the practice to infertility and increased risk of having a dangerous ectopic pregnancy.
The simple fact is that you don’t need to douche. Your vagina is designed to be self-cleaning. The vagina has a delicately balanced environment. It contains bacteria that prevent infections by invading microbes. Douching disrupts that balance and actually makes it more difficult to fight vaginal infections. It also pushes bad bacteria deeper into your reproductive system and, by throwing the normal acidity of the vagina out of whack, it makes it more difficult for your doctor to diagnose and treat infections.
Not only that, it has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries. Studies show that women who douche are at a seventy-three percent higher risk of PID. Cervical cancer is another risk that is higher for women who douche regularly. With all of those health risks it seems clear that douching is not conducive to your reproductive health.
But, you might be saying, it makes me feel cleaner during and after my period. It also helps with vaginal odor. Does it? As we previously stated, the vagina cleans itself and removes menstrual blood and other matter. That is why your cervix produces mucus. There is no real need for you to douche in order for that process to be effective at keeping your vagina clean.
Douching also does not totally help with vaginal odor. To begin with, it does not really remove the potential causes of vaginal odor. Strong vaginal odor is often a sign of an infection or STD. As we have said, douching only drives those infections deeper and makes it difficult for your doctor to help you. It also merely covers up the odor temporarily, much as an air fresher does in a smelly bathroom.
Plain old soap and water remain the best idea for cleaning yourself. In short, it is not okay to douche during your period or when your period is over. It is not necessary and it poses a health risk.