Are you one of the 20 percent of women who still douche? STOP IT. We don't mean to get all shout-y at you, but not only is douching not hygienic, but it's upping your risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study published in Epidemiology.
Douching—or the process of squirting liquid into your vagina—was first invented back in the 18th century, most likely as a form of birth control, an STD preventative, or as a fertility treatment. (Newsflash: it doesn't work for any of those things.) Since then it's gained popularity as a way to clean the vagina, and by the 1980s it was even seen as a must for good feminine hygiene. But doctors and scientists have learned that not only does it not make you cleaner down there, it actually damages the delicate bacterial balance in the vagina—and that can cause a whole host of health problems.
"Internal vaginal cleaning is not a recommended routine to keep the vagina smelling fresh and clean," says Sherry Ross, MD, an OBGYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica. "The active cleaning ingredients used in most douches can upset the healthy vaginal discharge and pH balance and create a yeast or bacterial infection." (See: Other Weird Things Women Are Putting In Their Vaginas In the Name of Health.)
Douching has also been shown to increase your risk of UTIs, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy. And now you can add one more to that list. In this latest study, researchers examined data from over 40,000 women and found that women who douche had a nearly-doubled increased risk of ovarian cancer. This is serious news, as despite all the bad press surrounding douching, nearly one in five women still do it, according to the CDC.
"A healthy vagina needs the same hygienic attention as any other part of your body," says Ross. "But the vagina itself is self-cleaning and all you need for the outside is water and a gentle, non-fragranced soap."
In other words, it's really, really time to stop with the squirting, ladies. Yes, a clean, fresh vag is important—but there's really no need to work so hard to get it.