Douching | Office on Women's Health (2023)

Douching | Office on Women's Health (1)

Douching is washing or cleaning out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids.In the United States, almost one in five women 15 to 44 years old douche.Doctors recommend that you do not douche. Douching can lead to many health problems, including problems getting pregnant. Douching is also linked to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What is douching?

The word "douche" means to wash or soak. Douching is washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Most douches are sold in stores as prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. The mixtures usually come in a bottle or bag. You squirt the douche upward through a tube or nozzle into your vagina. The water mixture then comes back out through your vagina.

Douching is different from washing the outside of your vagina during a bath or shower. Rinsing the outside of your vagina with warm water will not harm your vagina. But, douching can lead to many different health problems.

Most doctors recommend that women do not douche.

How common is douching?

In the United States, almost one in five women 15 to 44 years old douche.

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More African-American and Hispanic women douche than white women.2Douching is also common in teens of all races and ethnicities.3,4

Studies have not found any health benefit to douching. But, studies have found that douching is linked to many health problems.

Why should women not douche?

Most doctors recommend that women do not douche. Douching can change the necessary balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and natural acidity in a healthy vagina.

A healthy vagina has good and harmful bacteria. The balance of bacteria helps maintain an acidic environment. The acidic environment protects the vagina from infections or irritation.

Douching can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This can lead to ayeast infectionorbacterial vaginosis. If you already have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection up into theuterus,fallopian tubes, andovaries. This can lead topelvic inflammatory disease, a serious health problem.

Douching is alsolinked to other health problems.

What health problems are linked to douching?

Health problems linked to douching include:5

  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is an infection in the vagina. Women who douche often (once a week) are five times more likely to develop BV than women who do not douche.6
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection in the reproductive organs that is often caused by anSTI
  • Problems during pregnancy, including preterm birth and ectopic pregnancy
  • STIs, including HIV
  • Vaginal irritation or dryness

Researchers are studying whether douching causes these problems or whether women at higher risk for these health problems are more likely to douche.

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Should I douche to get rid of vaginal odor or other problems?

No. You should not douche to try to get rid of vaginal odor or other vaginal problems like discharge, pain, itching, or burning.

Douching will only cover up odor for a short time and will make other problems worse. Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Vaginal itching and thick, white, or yellowish-green discharge with or without an odor
  • Burning, redness, and swelling in or around the vagina
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain or discomfort during sex

These may be signs of a vaginal infection, or an STI. Do not douche before seeing your doctor or nurse. This can make it hard for the doctor or nurse to find out what may be wrong.

Should I douche to clean inside my vagina?

No. Doctors recommend that women do not douche. You do not need to douche to clean your vagina. Your body naturally flushes out and cleans your vagina. Any strong odor or irritation usually means something is wrong.

Douching also can raise your chances of a vaginal infection or an STI. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

What is the best way to clean my vagina?

It is best to let your vagina clean itself. The vagina cleans itself naturally by making mucous. The mucous washes away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge.

If you are worried about vaginal odor, talk to your doctor or nurse. But you should know that even healthy, clean vaginas have a mild odor that changes throughout the day. Physical activity also can give your vagina a stronger, muskier scent, but this is still normal.

Keep your vagina clean and healthy by:

  • Washing the outside of your vagina with warm water when you bathe. Some women also use mild soaps. But, if you have sensitive skin or any current vaginal infections, even mild soaps can cause dryness and irritation.
  • Avoiding scented tampons, pads, powders, and sprays. These products may increase your chances of getting a vaginal infection.
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Can douching before or after sex prevent STIs?

No. Douching before or after sexdoes notprevent STIs. In fact, douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection. This can actually increase your risk of getting STIs, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.Learn ways to prevent STIs.

Should I douche if I had sex without using protection or if the condom broke?

No. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection. This can increase your risk of getting STIs, including HIV. Douching also does not protect against pregnancy.

If you had sex without using protection or if the condom broke during sex, see a doctor right away. You can get medicine to help prevent HIV and unwanted pregnancy.

Should I douche if I was sexually assaulted?

No, you should not douche, bathe, or shower. As hard as it may be to not wash up, you may wash away important evidence if you do. Douching may also increase your risk of getting STIs, including HIV. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) can help you find a hospital able to collect evidence of sexual assault. Your doctor or nurse can help you get medicine to help prevent HIV and unwanted pregnancy.

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Can douching after sex prevent pregnancy?

No. Douchingdoes notprevent pregnancy. It should never be used for birth control. If you had sex without using birth control or if your birth control method did not work correctly (failed), you can useemergency contraceptionto keep from getting pregnant.

If you need birth control, talk to your doctor or nurse about which type ofbirth control methodis best for you.

How does douching affect pregnancy?

Douching can make it harder to get pregnant and can cause problems during pregnancy:

  • Trouble getting pregnant.Women who douched at least once a month had a harder time getting pregnant than those women who did not douche.7
  • Higher risk of ectopic pregnancy.Douching may increase a woman's chance of damaged fallopian tubes andectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg attaches to the inside of the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If left untreated, ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. It can also make it hard for a woman to get pregnant in the future.
  • Higher risk of early childbirth.Douching raises your risk for premature birth. One study found that women who douched during pregnancy were more likely to deliver their babies early.8This raises the risk for health problems for you and your baby.

Did we answer your question about douching?

For more information about douching, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015).Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth.
  2. Chandra, A., Martinez, G., Mosher, W., Abma, J., & Jones, J. (2005).Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.Vital Health Statistics;23(25), 1–160.
  3. Ott, M.A., Ofner, S.O., Fortenberry, J.D. (2009).Beyond Douching: Use of Feminine Hygiene Products and STI Risk among Young Women.Journal of Sexual Medicine;6: 1335–1340.
  4. Markham, C.M., Tortolero, S.R., Addy, R.C., Baumler, E.R., McKirahan, N.K., Escobar-Chaves, S.L., et al. (2007).Factors Associated with Frequent Vaginal Douching Among Alternative School Youth.Journal of Adolescent Health;41(5): 509–512.
  5. Ness, R.B., et al. (2002).Douching in relation to bacterial vaginosis, lactobacilli, and facultative bacteria in the vagina.Obstet Gynecol;100:765–72.
  6. Allsworth, J., & Peipert, J. (2007).Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis: 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.Obstetrics and Gynecology;109(1), 114–120.
  7. Baird, D.D., et al. (1996).Vaginal douching and reduced fertility.American Journal of Public Health;86(6): 844–50.
  8. Misra, D. P., & Trabert, B. (2007).Vaginal douching and risk of preterm birth among African American women.American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology;196(2), 140 e141–140 e148.
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Is douching good for a woman's body? ›

Doctors recommend that you do not douche. Douching can lead to many health problems, including problems getting pregnant. Douching is also linked to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What does douching mean for a girl? ›

Douche means "to wash" or "to soak" in French, and refers to the practice of washing or rinsing out the vagina using water or some other fluid. Douches are available at most drug stores or grocery stores, and are sold in bottles that allow users to squirt the solution into the vagina through a hose or nozzle.

Can douching stop your period? ›

Douching on your period

Will douching stop my period? The simple answer is no.

How long does a douching last? ›

One person said that they allow 2 hours “before water to expel before play.” Another said that 15 – 30 minutes was sufficient, although most people said that you need at least an hour to complete a douching regimen and allow enough time for the water to exit your body before you leave the bathroom (or the close ...

Is douching with water safe? ›

Douching with Water

Some women ask us: “Can I douche with water only?” Most doctors are in agreement that water is the safest and most effective way to clean the vulva. Simply rinse with warm tap water and a washcloth, if necessary.

What stops the period? ›

You may start missing periods as you approach the menopause. This is because oestrogen levels will start to decrease, and ovulation will become less regular. After menopause, your periods will stop completely. The menopause is a natural part of the ageing process in women.

What stops a period for good? ›

To permanently stop a period, you can have a surgical procedure to have your uterus removed, known as a hysterectomy. There is also a procedure that removes an internal part of the uterus, known as an endometrial ablation.

How many times should I be douching? ›

There's no correct number of times, but it's best to limit yourself to once per day. Ideally, don't do it more than 2-3 times per week. If you're unsure how to do it, hurt yourself in the process, notice any side effects from anal douching, or have symptoms of an STD, talk to your doctor right away.

What can you not do when douching? ›

Use the right water.

If you douche too often with tap water, you can cause an electrolyte imbalance that using normal saline would prevent. Avoid it if you can but it's not always easy to do so. And absolutely do not use olive oil, bleach, alcohol, or anything else that you find under your kitchen sink.

What does douching do to your body? ›

Douching has been associated with many adverse outcomes including pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, cervical cancer, low birth weight, preterm birth, human immunodeficiency virus transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, and infertility.

Does douching make you smell better? ›

Should you do it? While douching may temporarily cover up vaginal odor, the answer to the question “Does douching work?” is pretty overwhelmingly “no.” Bacterial vaginosis - BV is a vaginal infection that occurs when the good Lactobacilli bacteria are overwhelmed by anaerobic bacteria and Gardnerella vaginalis.

Does douching help pH balance? ›

Douching not only increases the vaginal pH level, but also encourages the growth of harmful bacterial overall.

How long after douching are you good for? ›

Table 1
Type of DoucheShallow DouchingDeeper Douchinga
SolutionWarm WaterWarm Water
Douche ApplicatorCommercial Enema Bottle, Plastic Water Bottle, or Rubber BulbHose or Enema Bag Attached to Shower
Time to Retain Liquid10–30 secondsAs long as possible
Time to Wait Before Anal Sex15–30 minutes30–60 minutes

Is douching once a week good? ›

Not always but once in a blue moon?! No. Douching can change the balance of bacteria in your vagina, which can cause vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina.


1. Office on Women’s Health Women Panel on Women Veterans' Health
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
2. The mission of the VA Office of Women’s Health
(Government Matters)
3. NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health 30th Anniversary
4. Women's Health - Douching & Probiotics (Pt 3)
(The Medical Benefits Scheme)
5. Women's Health Campaign 2022 | 2:13
(Knox County Health Department)
6. FDA Office of Women’s Health: Heart Disease Risk Factor
(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
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