The Dangers of douching.
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Since many women associate douching with cleanliness and good hygiene, it may come as a surprise to learn that douching can actually be dangerous. But the truth is, we're not dirty, and our vaginas can take care of themselves. The best thing to do for our health is to leave our vaginas alone and let our natural system work. There's supposed to be stuff in there -- left to their own devices, they keep each other from overgrowing and promote healthy vaginal pH balance (strong enough for a man, but made by and for a woman!). And there's supposed to be stuff coming out of us, too -- different stuff throughout our menstrual cycle. In fact, vaginal secretions can actually help us know when we're in good health, if we know what to look for.
The Dangers of DouchingThe dangers of douching are threefold. First of all, douching can cause irritation and inflammation of vaginal tissues, which make it easier for STDs and HIV to set up shop in our bodies. Secondly, douching can actually cause an infection by disrupting the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina. Infections lead to an immune response, which for women with HIV could in turn lead to increased viral replication. Women who have irregular cycles because of hormonal changes or medications may also find that they experience more vaginal dryness, which can also lead to irritation, tears, and an increased risk of STDs, HIV, or vaginal infection. Douching on top of vaginal dryness is doubly dangerous for women of all ages and HIV status! So if your vagina feels dry or intercourse is uncomfortable, throw douches out the window and pile on the water-based lubricants -- they help keep you safer, and they're more fun!
Thirdly, douching can complicate an existing infection, perhaps even to the point of serious health risk. If you notice an unusual vaginal discharge, do NOT douche! The discharge may be a sign that your vagina is trying to re-balance itself, and washing it away could slow down your body's healing process. If the discharge is caused by an infection, douching could push the germs causing the infection up into the cervix or uterus, increasing the chance of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries). Women with immune systems weakened by HIV/AIDS are at special risk for developing PID, which may be more difficult to treat and more likely to cause long-term damage in HIV positive women than in women without HIV. If you think you might have a vaginal infection -- especially if you have low abdominal pain, pain with intercourse, or abdominal pain with fever and chills -- go to a doctor or clinic to have your symptoms properly diagnosed and treated.