Women who douche frequently in the belief that it's a healthy practice may actually increase their risk for yeast infections by altering the vagina's pH balance. Routine douching is simply not necessary, since the vagina is able to clean itself.
Routine douching has been linked to an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and result in infertility. If the infection spreads to the circulatory system, it can be fatal.
A 1990 study showed that women who douched three or more times per month were three-and-a-half times more likely to have PID than women who douched less than once a month. The symptoms of PID include fever, chills, lower abdominal pain or tenderness, back pain, spotting, pain during or after intercourse, and puslike vaginal discharge. In most cases, a woman does not show all of the symptoms listed. If you have any PID symptoms, consult a physician immediately.
Not only has routine douching been associated with an increased risk of PID, some researchers believe it may increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer.
The message is clear: While an occasional douche during an infection might be helpful, don't make a habit of douching.
For more yeast infection treatment information, see the links below.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
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