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Douching

Douching comes from the French word ‘douche’ which means ‘to wash’. Douching means to clean a body cavity like a vagina/internal genitals or rectum with water. People may choose to douche for a variety of reasons, including medical or hygienic reasons.

Vaginal/internal genital douching

Natal vaginas

For people who were born with a vagina (natal vagina), your vagina is a self-cleaning organ. Douching of natal vaginas is not medically recommended. Douching can flush out the healthy bacteria.  Douching does not prevent pregnancy.  Store-bought douches can contain ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and /or perfume. These ingredients can irritate the vaginal tissue, causing burning and dryness. This can make you more likely to get STIs. 

Some people use douching because of concerns about vaginal scents. It is normal for vaginas/internal genitals to have their own scent and it can change throughout the menstrual cycle. Changes in diet or starting a new dietary supplement can affect the natural scent. Changes in hormone levels can also cause changes in scent (like with hormone replacement therapy or menopause).

The most common reason for unpleasant vaginal scents is an imbalance of the natural acidity of the vagina/internal genitals. This imbalance can cause the bacteria that are normally present to grow too much. This overgrowth of the normal vaginal flora is called bacterial vaginosis (or BV). BV can clear on its own or be treated with prescription antibiotics.

Neo vaginas

For people who were not born with a vagina/internal genitals but who have undergone vaginoplasty as a gender-affirming surgery (neo vagina), your vagina is not a self-cleaning organ. Routine douching is usually medically recommended to aid healing and clean the area.

Anal douching

Anal douching is often used to clean out the lower rectum before anal sex.

Anal douching involves gently introducing a half cup of slightly warm water into the rectum.  This action stimulates a bowel movement and the area is then gently rinsed out until the water comes out clear. Some people buy a ½ cup-size bulb syringe from the pharmacy for this purpose.

It is recommended to use room temperature or slightly warm water only, as soap or other additives can irritate the rectal lining and increase the risk of getting STIs.

Resources

Online

Canadian Women’s Health Network – Keeping your Vagina Healthy
Scarleteen – A guide to vaginal secretions
TransCare BC – Information on vaginoplasty, including aftercare
Anal Douching – A blog with tips on anal douching for anal sex

Books

Anal Pleasure and Health: A guide for men, women and couples by Jack Morin

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