Why experts advise against douching during pregnancy.

By Wayne Kalyn, Photo by PhotoDisc
October 05, 2005
Pre-Term Delivery Danger
Credit: Photodisc

Q: Is it safe to douche while I'm pregnant?

A: No -- douching is associated with an increased risk of early labor and, as a result, a low-birth-weight baby. A recent study conducted by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Atlanta found that pregnant women who douche are almost twice as likely to have a pre-term delivery -- giving birth at 20 to 36 weeks -- as pregnant women who don't.

As it turns out, douching itself doesn't trigger early delivery. A study conducted by Roberta Ness, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, revealed that douching may disturb the bacterial balance in the vagina, resulting in a mild infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV) that's associated with an increased risk of pre-term delivery. In fact, women who douche at least once a month are 40% more likely to develop BV. In some cases, women who develop BV treat it by douching, which may transport bacteria farther up into the reproductive tract.

The Pittsburgh study also found that the habit of douching is typically passed down from mother to daughter or from another female relative. "Women who do it say they feel clean when they douche and dirty if they don't," says Dr. Ness. "But it isn't necessary -- douching actually inhibits the vagina from cleansing itself."

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Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission from the March 2003 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.