Why vaginal douches should be avoided

Cleansing products intended for use in intimate hygiene destroy the “good” bacteria in the vaginal flora, according to the authors of a new study, which warns against vaginal douches, a practice still too widespread.

 

Although the importance of personal hygiene admits no discussion, the practice of vaginal douching with dedicated cleansing products, though denounced by the vast majority of the scientific community, is still practiced regularly by many women.

Vaginal microbiota: a fragile balance

The vaginal microbiota is one of the most sophisticated examples of the close, harmonious relationship that exists between the human species and microorganisms. Its good health stems from the presence of lactobacilli, which are generally more abundant than any other bacterial species. Consequently, any imbalance in favor of other bacteria can expose women to several urogenital disorders such as bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, and can even have sometimes serious consequences for the outcome of a pregnancy (miscarriage, premature birth, ectopic pregnancy…).

Vaginal douching, a common practice

Many women are anxious about their personal hygiene, and use what are called vaginal douches. This practice consists in introducing a liquid solution into their vagina to “clean” it properly. Many studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of this practice on health and pregnancy, but few have demonstrated the bactericidal capacity of cleansing products.

Destruction of lactobacilli

To address this issue, two researchers tested the effect of three vaginal cleansing products, with different pH levels, on lactobacilli strains derived from vaginal microbiotas. This in vitro study allowed them to observe that the three products, which are sold in supermarkets, not only inhibited the growth of lactobacilli and destabilized the microbiota, but also disrupted the integrity of epithelial cells. They therefore confirmed that vaginal douches damage the immune barrier of the vagina and encourage women who practice them to review their intimate hygiene habits.

 

Sources:

Erdogan Aslan & Nadia Bechelaghem (2018): To ‘douche’ or not to ‘douche’ : hygiene habits may have detrimental effects on vaginal microbiota, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, DOI: 10.1080/01443615.2017.1395398