Douching during Pregnancy: Is It Safe or Not?

Douching During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

There are many women who are unaware of the concept of douching, and with good reason. Douching is not usually undertaken because there doesn’t seem to be a necessity. While some women might do so to feel clean down there, they might begin to ask the question, ‘Is douching during pregnancy safe?’ ‘Can douching while pregnant cause a miscarriage of their baby?’ Pregnancy is a unique and transformative journey for women, filled with questions and concerns about maintaining both maternal and fetal health. Since health safety is of utmost importance, it is best to clear the doubts before undertaking any second doubts. Let us understand what douching during pregnancy means and whether there is a necessity for it or not.

What Is Douching?

To understand what douching is, it is necessary to know what completely constitutes a vagina. The entire region that starts from the cervix inside the body, down to the opening outside, is termed as a vagina. It is made up of numerous muscles serving various functions and contains a number of bacteria and discharges that take care of its cleanliness. Douching is the procedure of using fluids made from a combination of baking soda and vinegar to clean the vagina. This is done by squirting this mixture inside using a bottle and a nozzle.

Is Douching Safe for Pregnant Women?

Vaginal douching during pregnancy is not recommended and is actually advised to not be undertaken at all whether you are pregnant or not. Unknown to us, there are a huge number of microorganisms and bacteria that are constantly working towards maintaining a healthy environment in the vaginal tract. These are also responsible for taking care of any harmful bacteria that might enter, thus, carrying out an antibacterial action and preventing any infections. The various discharges that occur to make women wet, but these also make it difficult for external bodies to stick in the vagina and rarely smell or cause any irritation.

But when you douche, the chemicals of the fluid end up disrupting the pH balance present in the vagina, which is necessary for all these processes to continue and for the good bacteria to thrive without any problems. In order to make the area smell better, using perfumes or other aromatic chemicals is not recommended, as chemicals in perfumes can react adversely with the inner tissues, leading to further irritation. It could even open the doors for infection as well.

Is Douching Safe for Pregnant Women?

Harmful Effects of Douching in Pregnancy

When pregnant women undertake douching to keep their vagina healthy, they are, in fact, causing a lot of harm to the area and making it unhealthy in various ways.

  • First off, douching can reduce the chances of you getting pregnant if you are attempting to conceive. All the natural processes and bacteria constitute an integral part of the reproductive system. Introducing any foreign elements into a system that is well-balanced and self-sustaining could cause an impact, which might even result in a failed conception as well.
  • Douching can result in pushing the bacteria that ought to be in the vagina deeper into the body. These then reach the fallopian tubes and ovaries and begin to infect them. Such a condition is harmful to the woman and needs to be treated immediately.
  • In the case of pregnancy already present, douching while pregnant exposes the vaginal tract to a number of external factors, which might be responsible for triggering a premature delivery as well. Having a childbirth way before the full term of pregnancy could result in the baby having numerous complications or even being stillborn. Chances of exposing the uterus to infection, resulting in endometriosis, or the infection finding its way inside the amniotic sac, all increase due to douching.

  • Douching is also associated with vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially those caused by Enterococcus spp. and GBS.

  • Regular douching with povidone-iodine during early pregnancy can increase the iodine supply to the mother and the fetus, inducing overload in the amniotic fluid and fetal thyroid, which is harmful to both the mother and her baby.

  • Douching also increases the chances of developing pelvic infection or pelvic inflammatory disease.

FAQs

1. What Can I Use Instead of Douching?

Safe alternatives to douching during pregnancy include regular bathing with a mild soap, wearing cotton underwear, and staying well-hydrated. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalised advice.

2. Can Douching Lead to Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. While douching does not guarantee that it will lead to ectopic pregnancy, there are some cases in which it was found that women who douched often were more likely to have a risk of developing ectopic pregnancy than women who did not.

3. Can I Use a Vaginal Wash in Pregnancy?

It is safe to use a vaginal wash during pregnancy as long as it is mild, free of harmful chemicals and strong perfumes that could irritate the pH level of the vagina.

Most women carry out douching more as a reason to feel clean psychologically since it doesn’t actually bring any biological benefits. One might opt for douching with water while pregnant, but that too isn’t fully safe since the water itself might not be absolutely clean and free of microbes. It is best to leave the vagina as is and not indulge in it. Your pregnancy will continue unabated, and you will have a healthy baby as well.

References/Resources:

1. Is it safe to douche during pregnancy?; ACOG; https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/is-it-safe-to-douche-during-pregnancy.

2. Misra. D. P, Trabert. B; Vaginal douching and risk of preterm birth among African American women; Am J Obstet Gynecol.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847648/; February 2007

3. Douching; OASH; https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching

4. Sakru. N, Inceboz. T, Inceboz. U, et al.; Does vaginal douching affect the risk of vaginal infections in pregnant women?; Saudi Med J.; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16501679/; February 2006

5. Mahillon. J, Peers. W, Bourdoux. P, et al.; Effect of Vaginal Douching with Povidone-Iodine during Early Pregnancy on the Iodine Supply to Mother and Fetus; Biology of the Neonate (1989); Karger; https://karger.com/neo/article-abstract/56/4/210/367653/Effect-of-Vaginal-Douching-with-Povidone-Iodine?redirectedFrom=PDF; September 2009

6. Bacterial vaginosis and pregnancy; March of Dimes; https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/bacterial-vaginosis-and-pregnancy

7. Bruce. F. C, Kendrick. J. S, Kieke. B. A, et al.; Is Vaginal Douching Associated with Preterm Delivery?; JSTOR; https://www.jstor.org/stable/3703404; May 2002

8. Does Douching Prevent Pregnancy?; Nemours KidsHealth; https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/contraception-douche.html

9. Martino. J. L, Vermund. S. H; Vaginal Douching: Evidence for Risks or Benefits to Women’s Health; Epidemiologic Reviews, Volume 24, Issue 2, Pages 109–124; Oxford Academic; https://academic.oup.com/epirev/article/24/2/109/534985; December 2002

10. Sakru. N, Inceboz. T, Inceboz. U, et al.; Does vaginal douching affect the risk of vaginal infections in pregnant women?; Saudi Medical Journal; ResearchGate; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7275285_Does_vaginal_douching_affect_the_risk_of_vaginal_infections_in_pregnant_women; March 2006

11. Vaginal Douche; ScienceDirect; https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/vaginal-douche

Also Read:

Enemas during Pregnancy
Yeast Infection when Pregnant
Yellow Discharge in Pregnancy
Bacterial Vaginosis during Pregnancy

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