Can You Douche While Pregnant? You Shouldn't Do It Ever

One of the not-so-pleasant aspects of being pregnant is the increase in vaginal discharge. Most women experience a thin, milky white vaginal discharge throughout pregnancy. This discharge, known as leukorrhea, is usually odorless or mild-smelling. It's usually not uncomfortable, but women who aren't used to so much discharge may be wondering can you douche while pregnant?

The simple answer is no. In fact, most doctors do not recommend vaginal douching at all.

What exactly is douching? According to the Office on Women's Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, douching is washing out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. You can find packaged douches at the store which usually contain a mixture of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Water is squirted into the vagina using a bottle or bag with a nozzled end (think: enema.)

Women who douche, do so because they feel that it helps eliminate odors, but according to Dr. Elisa Ross, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Health Institute, it is normal for the vagina to have some odor and for the odor to change throughout their cycle (foul odors are a sign of infection and require medical treatment.)

By douching, you flush out the normal, healthy microbes and temporarily change the pH of the vagina, creating an easier environment for infections to develop. Your douching may actually be the cause of the odor you are trying to eliminate.

Vaginal douching can also cause serious problems during your pregnancy. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who douche during pregnancy have an increased risk of preterm labor. The Office on Women's Health also noted that douching prior to pregnancy can damage fallopian tubes and increase a woman's risk for ectopic pregnancy. Another study on douching from the American Journal For Public Health found that douching caused decreased fertility in women. Participants in the study were six to 50 percent less likely to become pregnant depending on age if they used vaginal douches compared to women who did not douche.

Vaginas are self-cleaning organs, and Ross warned that douching actually harms vaginal health. If you have concerns about vaginal discharge, odor, itch, or pain, see you OB-GYN before trying over the counter treatments.