Ask A Gynecologist: What Does Douching Actually Do To Your Vagina?

Finally, we're bringing you very public answers to some of your most private questions. When sexual and vaginal health concerns arise, OB/GYN and nationally known women's health expert Dr. Jessica Shepherd wants to ensure you have the answers you need to feel at ease. As the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women's health forum, she uses this outlet to focus on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting.

Q: What does douching actually do to your vagina?

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A: Think about your vagina as somewhat of a battle ground where you have the good army and the bad army. There is good bacteria and  bad bacteria. The good bacteria is naturally occurring but it's there to balance the vaginal atmosphere. It's there to protect it. So what happens essentially when you douche is you are flushing out everything, whether it's good or bad. When you flush out that good bacteria, you're actually decreasing self-defense of the vagina and allowing bad bacteria to take over and change the atmosphere in the vagina and therefore increasing your chances of having bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections. Maybe increase in discharge.     

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The vagina's self-cleansing, it really can do a lot on it's own without having to interfere. How women clean out or douche after they have their period is, I think, more harmful than not. It's not that it's going to harm the vagina but you really are not allowing the vagina to do the natural things that it should be doing on its own. You're kind of taking away it's ability to clean and do that self-cleansing by eliminating all the good bacteria. A lot of those douches have a vinegar component or component of some type of cleansing solution which can disrupt the pH in the vagina. If you absolutely feel you have to clean out that area, just use water. Water will do what you need it to do as far as getting rid of maybe an excess blood and not harming the atmosphere.   

A lot of times women feel that cleaning inside the vagina with soap is helpful and that's not the case. Externally you can use soap but internally is where we fall into the same issue of getting rid of that good bacteria. Another big part of vaginal health is what we put in our bodies. What do we eat? Are we decreasing obesity? Are we exercising? Overall wellness goes into vaginal health as well. All of that plays a part in how healthy we are.

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Filed under: Love & Sex