What Is a Vaginal Douche?

Madeleine A.
Madeleine A.
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A vaginal douche is a procedure that is used to clean or irrigate the vaginal area, which works by sending a stream of fluid into the vaginal cavity. In addition, although a vaginal douche is generally done to enhance vaginal cleanliness, it is not recommended by most health care providers. Various substances used in vaginal douches include vinegar, plain tap water, and certain medications. Using a vaginal douche may help eliminate vaginal odor, but may also predispose women to vaginal infections.

Types of vaginal douches include those that come in pre-mixed plastic applicators and those that require the use of douche bags and tubing. In addition, a vaginal douche preparation can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. Since the vagina has the natural ability to cleanse itself, a vaginal douche is typically not needed to maintain hygiene.

The vaginal area should not have strong, pervasive odors, and if these odors occur, a woman should notify her doctor. Odor accompanied by vaginal discharge, burning, and itching may signify an infection, which will need medical treatment to clear the symptoms. Douches may disrupt the natural bacterial flora of the vagina and even worsen an existing infection.

A vaginal infection, although typically not considered a medical emergency, can cause serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause permanent damage or scarring to the reproductive organs. In addition to contributing to the risk of infection, douching may increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that has originated in a fallopian tube as opposed to the uterus. Since the fallopian tubes are not equipped to accommodate a growing fetus, they can rupture and cause internal bleeding and permanent structural damage.

Regularly washing the genital area with soap and water is usually sufficient to maintain cleanliness and hygiene, so products such as scented feminine sprays, powders, and wipes are also generally not needed. In addition to increasing the risk of vaginal infections, douching can also cause local tissue irritation. If pain, burning upon urination, and changes in the characteristics of vaginal discharge occur, douching should be discontinued and the health care provider consulted. To treat a bacterial or yeast infection of the vagina, the health care provider may prescribe oral antibiotics or vaginal creams. In addition, eating yogurt may also be recommended because it can help restore and maintain the body's natural bacterial flora with its live active cultures.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGen-- I don't think that vaginal douching is a good idea for any reason. My gynecologist told me to never douche.


I used a vaginal douche a few times when I was newly married. I had a minor allergic reaction to sperm which is not uncommon for women who recently become sexually active. It caused burning, itching sensations in my vagina after sex and cleaning the outer area was not enough. So I did use a douche a few times to clean myself. It certainly helped and relieved my symptoms.

Thankfully, after a while, this allergic reaction disappeared on its own, so I did not need to douche again. I'm not against the idea though. Of course, I would not use a vaginal douche to try to treat an infection. But for minor irritations, I think it can be used as long as it's not used excessively.


Using pre-mixed vaginal douche from the pharmacy is one thing, using homemade vaginal douches is another. I think the latter is a terrible idea. Some women use things like baking soda and vinegar in their vaginal douche. I can't even imagine how irritating that will be to vaginal tissues. It must burn as well.

Douching in general is not a good idea. But if someone must douche, I think the pre-mixed ones from the pharmacy are the best option. At least they have safe pH levels and safe ingredients.

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