Many women, especially those in the younger demographic, are still holding on to the long-debunked practice of douching, which is likely causing them plenty of grief down the line.

Multiple studies over the last few decades have found that this outdated habit is unnecessary and in fact is associated with many gynaecological woes, despite it being held as a “cleaner” approach by many Western cultures around the world.

This week, the strongest evidence yet against douching has emerged from the new National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences study which is the first to tie cancer of the ovaries to the procedure routinely practiced by millions of women around the world. The study assessed 50,884 women from the USA and Puerto Rico and 154 of them were found to have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The ones who reported having douched in the shower had almost doubled their risk, which is thought to be due to the increase in phthalates that enter into the body after douching, which could in turn increase the likelihood of infection and therefore of cancer.

Outdated “cleanliness” habit rooted in France

The word ''douche'' originates from French for ''wash'' or ''soak.'' Simply put, it is a method to wash out the vagina, which used to be done with a mixture of water and vinegar before the advent of modern toiletries. In the last few decades, douches that are commonly sold in many pharmacies and supermarkets contain various antiseptics and fragrances. They are packaged as bottles or bags and are meant to be sprayed through a tube upward into the vagina.

The popularity of douching seems to be based on the notion that it is cleaner, and many women give a range of varied reasons for why they do it, including “to get rid of unpleasant odours, wash away menstrual blood after their period, avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases, and prevent a pregnancy after intercourse.”  

Douches are not necessary & cause multiple health problems

However, doctors have long been urging their patients to stop this practice over the last few decades as many studies found damning links to bacterial and yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancies. Researchers have also found associations between douching and cervical cancer, reduced fertility, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Ovarian cancer has earned the moniker of “the silent killer” because many women often exhibit no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

For women who are concerned about adequate personal hygiene, they should rest assured that doctor’s have confirmed just water is required, as the vagina has a natural self-cleaning mechanism built-in which ensures its PH levels stay in the healthy range.

Moreover, some minor odour is completely normal and should not be a cause for concern. If the odour is stronger, however, there may be reason to consult a professional and in this instance, douching may serve to mask the problem until it has worsened.

Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, there is still plenty of gaps in patient knowledge about personal hygiene. Thus, such conversations with healthcare professionals should be fostered as it could be tremendously preventative. Joelle Brown, an epidemiology professor at the University of California said that interventions to encourage women not to douche are needed.



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