A 2020 study from the Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association found an increased risk of vaginal infections among women who performed vaginal douching (VD).
Researchers evaluated 190 women who did and did not practice VD, with statistically significant differences in vaginal infection history between the two groups. VD women had an infection history rate of 57.9% compared to 37.9% of the non-VD participants who reported a history of vaginal infections.
Vaginal douching is traditionally practiced in many cultures, with reasons ranging from hygiene maintenance and post-intercourse cleanliness to odor elimination and disease protection. Participants in the study rated personal hygiene (83%) as their primary reasons for douching, and reported learning the practice from their social groups, mothers, the media and healthcare providers. The study also noted a correlation between socioeconomic status and VD practices, and higher use among women older than 50.
Another goal of the study was to determine VD’s effects on vaginal flora. While no significant vaginal flora difference was found between the groups, the Lactobacillus (or beneficial bacteria) population count in VD women’s vaginal biome was 57.9% compared to the non-VD group at 70.5%. However, studies cited in the article (from 2004 and 1992, respectively) identified bacterial vaginosis and vaginal infections among women using water and vinegar, and povidone-iodine solutions for VD, which caused a significant reduction in vaginal flora.
Researchers noted that the effects of VD on vaginal flora are largely unknown and require additional research. However, their findings among the 190 VD and non-VD participants concluded that women who practice vaginal douching are at higher risks for vaginal infections than women who do not engage in the practice. Read the article in full.
Rasime Yıldırım, Gülşen Vural, and Esra Koçoğlu
Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association, March 2020