Vaginal douches, the secret to… more infections?

Personal hygiene routines vary from woman to woman and from culture to culture. And it’s something people don’t often talk about. Women’s privates sometimes give off a distinct odour, and it’s not always easy to know if it’s normal…


Sonia Chartier

02 November 2016

To deal with it, some women use vaginal douches. Yet while 20% to 40% of women use them, they’re anything but essential! So why use them at all?

Let’s start at the beginning: What exactly is a vaginal douche? Basically, it’s using an enema bottle designed specifically for cleaning the vagina along with a liquid solution typically made of a mixture of vinegar and water. Some commercial douche solutions contain antiseptics and fragrances. Once rinsed with the solution, the walls of the vagina are “washed.” According to U.S. statistics, those who use douches are predominantly adolescents or women of Latin-American or African-American descent.

What are vaginal douches good for?

Those who use them do so to:

  • Eliminate menstrual blood after their period
  • Avoid pregnancy after having sex
  • Protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Deodorize their privates
  • Feel “fresh”

In reality:

  • Douches do absolutely nothing to prevent pregnancy or STIs
  • Douching increases the risk of ectopic pregnancies
  • Douches increase by 73% the risk of contracting pelvic inflammatory syndrome, an infection that affects the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries
  • Douches decimate the vaginal flora, thereby making the vagina a more hospitable environment for the bad bacteria that cause yeast infections


It’s perfectly normal for your private parts to have their own special scent. Your scent changes throughout your menstrual cycle, influenced by hormones and other factors:

  • Sweat. Your external genitalia, as well as your armpits, nipples and eyelashes, all have apocrine sweat glands that secrete an oily substance which, once combined with oxygen, may give off a strong odour. If you’ve been sweating, your best (and healthiest) bet is simply to shower!
  • Some foods can release odours through your armpits, head, mouth, feet and yes, your vagina! And they’re the usual suspects: garlic, chili peppers, black pepper, onions, blue cheese, cabbage, fish and broccoli.
  • Lost something? A forgotten tampon or lost condom will often end up being fairly easy to sniff out, literally. A gynecologist can remove the object safety and treat any resulting infection there may be.

An unusually pronounced odour, accompanied by abnormal vaginal discharge (sometimes yellowish, grey or greenish), usually indicates an infection that needs to be treated. Some infections can cause redness and itching. The most common ones, yeast infections, are caused by an imbalance in the vaginal flora.

The flora

Your vagina, like many other body parts (intestines, mouth, lungs, etc.), is coated with bacterial flora, which is consists primarily of lactic bacteria that help maintain the vagina’s slightly acidic pH. It’s thanks to this acidity that harmful bacteria like Candida can’t take hold.

Taking care of your intestinal flora helps keep your vaginal flora healthy. Simply avoiding white sugar and flour is a huge step in the right direction. You can also opt for an L+ lactic acid supplement that fosters the growth of good lactic bacteria in the flora.

The means to an end

To keep your vagina from emitting strong odours, we suggest that you:

  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid tight pants to allow air to flow around your lady bits
  • Change clothes after you’ve exercised
  • Change your sanitary napkins and tampons regularly during your period
  • Don’t wear panty liners every day
  • If you’re overweight, try to lose a few pounds, because the creases that form between folds of skin retain moisture
  • Never use vaginal douches and deodorant wipes and sprays
  • Keep to a proper personal hygiene routine, use mild soap and always properly rinse and dry your genitals.

Every woman is unique, and this is also true for vaginas, though they do all have at least one thing in common: they’re self-cleaning! It’s one of the rare instances where the cleaning gets done all by itself, so take advantage of it!


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