Don't Douche

Behind "that fresh, clean feeling" touted in ads for feminine hygiene products is a nasty lie that the vagina is dirty and malodorous. It's not. Gynecologists agree that the vagina is self-cleansing and that with regular bathing, feminine hygiene products, particularly douches, are completely unnecessary.

Still, more than one-quarter of U.S. women aged 15 to 44 douche regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (21 percent of white women, 33 percent of Hispanics, and 55 percent of African Americans). Some use homemade water-vinegar douches; most spring for commercial products, purchasing $120 million worth each year.

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Several studies have linked douching with increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious, often fertility-impairing infection of the fallopian tubes that strikes up to 1 million American women a year. It's not entirely clear why douching raises these risks. The leading theory is that it pushes harmless bacteria into the uterus, where they become harmful.

While the case against douching is not epidemiologically airtight, why buy a product that's at best worthless, and at worst hazardous? The message is clear: Don't douche. -- M.C.

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