To douche, Or not to douche?

  • By Sanjay Akolkar

Is the reason you are reading this, probably because you heard someone utter the cuss word- ‘douche bag’ which wasn’t too well received by the other person? Reason enough for you to be looking up what in the world is douching all about. Douche! I mean touché! Well, douching is a term used to describe the act of squirting water up the vaginal passage for the purpose of cleaning it.

An estimated 20% to 40% of American women, between ages of 15 and 44, say they use a vaginal douche. Higher rates are seen in teens and African-American and Hispanic women. Besides making them feel fresher, women say they douche to get rid of unpleasant odors, wash away menstrual blood after their period, avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases, and prevent a pregnancy after intercourse.

Now it isn’t literally splashing water, as douching can be done using various other liquids like antiseptic and medicated lotions. So though this word is predictably French, it is derived from the Italian word ‘Doccia’, which means water pipe! Now that’s closer to the truth, isn’t it? So, that’s where our ‘douche bag’ comes from. A douche bag is a device that aids in squirting the liquid. It could be in the form of a bag with jets or valves, which allow for the controlling the pressure of the liquid contained therein. Now, why would women want to go about douching themselves?

Some women douche to do away with unpleasant vaginal odors, to keep their vagina clean; while others douche to jeep out petty annoyances like flushing semen and sexual infections out of the vagina. The purpose of doing away with vaginal odors, or even flushing out traces of menstrual blood sounds entirely reasonable, but did you know that douching can actually be a harmful practice?


Douching the vagina or using a douche, can disturb the delicate chemical and microbial balance in the vagina and actually make you susceptible to a spate of infections. Plus, not to forget, the fact that using homemade douches can actually do much worse than just disrupt the vaginal ecosystem! It can make an existing infection worse by irritating it. This is true if you use chemicals or antiseptic solutions! Vaginal irritation, bacterial vaginosis and STIs are the health problems linked to douching. Not to mention PID or pelvic inflammatory disease that most douche users are most likely to suffer from, as the changes in the vaginal flora can easily attract a spate of bacterial infections. Though women douche as it makes them feel cleaner, experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) feel that vaginal odor is natural and if it gets too smelly down there, it means there is an infection and douching isn’t quite the right thing to do.

However, if you insist on douching for whatever reason, then at least make sure that you use clean water and nothing else. So, no vinegar based solutions; the vagina is acidic enough to keep infections at bay. Make sure you use a douche recommended by a doctor and do not indulge in it more than the number of times recommended by the doctor.