To douche or not to douche? Definitely not, is the answer from the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies, who has just revealed the results of a study into the practice.
It’s not the first time douching — vaginal washing with a device — has been linked to health issues, but it is the first time it’s been found to increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The national U.S. study claims that women who douche — an estimated 25 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 — are twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer as those who don’t.
Add a higher risk of ovarian cancer to the already lengthy list of unwanted health consequences of douching (yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies, reduced fertility, HIV and other transmitted diseases and cervical cancer), and the message is clear: Leave your vagina alone. (At least when it comes to cleaning it.)
It seems crazy for any woman to carry on douching, particularly when it’s completely unnecessary. The vagina naturally cleans itself in a way that doesn’t mess with nature’s delicate balance, without any need for scented sticks, sprays and other perfumed devices. Even occasional douching can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria that may result in yeast infections and push the bacteria up into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, where it definitely doesn’t belong.
Hopefully this latest study will get the message through to women who continue to douche, not through any fault of their own, but probably because they have been brought up to believe that it is a fundamental part of good female hygiene: to prepare the vagina for sex; to clean the vagina after sex; and to eliminate odor. Even more concerning is the fact that, unlike drugs, douching products aren’t subject to any U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety requirements, which means manufacturers are under no legal obligation whatsoever to carry out safety tests on the douche products they sell.
Around 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer — known as “the silent killer” because often no symptoms are experienced until the disease has reached an advanced stage — each year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and around 14,500 die from it.
In light of the new NIEHS study, it’s time for all women to be made aware that there are no health reasons to douche and to be actively encouraged to not do it. In the meantime, ladies, spread the word.