Is Douching Safe?

This vintage douche ad claims that its product is “safe to delicate tissues” and “non-poisonous.”

Douching is the practice of squirting a liquid, called a douche, into the vagina. Many people believe it helps keep the vagina clean and odor-free, and some are under the impression that it helps prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. An estimated 25 percent of American women 15 to 44 years old douche regularly. But just because douching is widespread doesn’t mean it’s safe; indeed, there are two possible mechanisms by which douching might be harmful.

First, douching might alter the pH of the vagina, changing its ecosystem. You might not think of a vagina as an “ecosystem,” but the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live there sure do — and altering their habitat can harm the beneficial microbes that live there, opening the door for disease-causing microbes to take over the territory. Frequent douching can result in the vagina’s normal microbial population having difficulty reestablishing its population.


Douching increases risk for infections and fertility problems, and has no proven medical benefits.


Second, a douche’s upward flow might give pathogens a “free ride” into the depths of the reproductive tract, granting them access to areas that might have been difficult for them to reach otherwise. In this manner, an infection might spread from the lower reproductive tract to the upper reproductive tract. Douching might be an even bigger risk for female adolescents, whose reproductive anatomy is not fully formed, leaving them more vulnerable to pathogens.

While douching is not guaranteed to harm you, there is no evidence that it is beneficial in any way. Establishing causation between douching and the problems that are associated with it is trickier — does douching cause these problems, or do people who douche also tend to engage in other behaviors that increase risk? So far, the best evidence indicates that douching is correlated with a number of diseases and other problems, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fertility and pregnancy complications, and more. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 16: Blood Tests to Screen for Ovarian Cancer

repro systemWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.


Ovarian cancer can strike anyone with ovaries, although it is most common in people who are more than 55 years old. It starts when certain mutations in ovarian cells start to proliferate, resulting in tumor growth. (Some types of ovarian cancer can originate in the fallopian tubes, but most ovarian cancers arise from the cells that cover the surface of the ovary.) If a cancerous cell breaks away, it might set up camp elsewhere in the body, resulting in the cancer’s spread. It can be a serious condition, affecting around one out of 71 ovary-wielding individuals.

What causes ovarian cancer?

If you learned about the reproductive system in school, you probably remember that ovulation involves the release of an egg from an ovary. What your teacher probably didn’t tell you is that the process of ovulation is actually rather violent. An egg does not exit the ovary through a preexisting “doorway” and shuttle down the fallopian tube to make its way to the uterus. Nope, when an egg is “released,” it actually bursts through the ovary itself.

OH YEAHUnfortunately, during ovulation, the egg perforates the ovary, creating a lot of tissue damage. The ovary needs to repair itself, sort of like how bricklayers will need to be hired to fix that mess left by the Kool Aid man. Because ovarian cells are so often replicating themselves during the repair process, there are more chances for an error to occur. Cells that divide frequently, like ovarian cells, are more prone to becoming cancerous. Continue reading

A Look Into the Face of Planned Parenthood

planned-parenthoodEditor’s Note: Today’s post is from Leslie Levy, one of our fabulous Community Action Team volunteers.

When I was single, I spent the third decade of my life working for a traveling healthcare company. I would spend months at a time in different cities across the United States working as an Occupational Therapist. This was in the 1990s to be exact. I was always conscientious about Pap tests, and mammograms. And, as a traveler, I would often get caught out on assignment at a time when my annual physical exams were due.

What’s a woman to do in a case like this? Go to the local Planned Parenthood, of course. Go to their medical office where you can get wellness checks, along with meeting some fantastic people at the same time. I used Planned Parenthood for my annual wellness checks for 10 years. I was so grateful that there was a place where a young woman on her own could find healthcare.

A woman’s wellness checks are intimate and can often be embarrassing. You don’t want to talk about your reproductive choices, have your boobs fondled, and spread your legs for just any doctor you find in the yellow pages. And, as a woman, you can’t trust any doctor you find in the yellow pages. You need a doctor who is trained to give you all the information and care you are supposed to have. Continue reading

What to Expect From Your First Pelvic Exam

You may be apprehensive about making your first gynecological appointment.

When should I go?  What will happen?  Why do I need to have a pelvic exam? How do I find a gynecologist?  But having a pelvic exam is a normal and responsible part of taking care of your body and keeping yourself sexually healthy.

Most women, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, should have their first pelvic exam by the age of 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first. Whatever your sexual orientation, pelvic exams are part of a healthy woman’s checkup.

So when should you schedule a pelvic exam? It can be part of your regular health check-up.  But you should also make an appointment if you have any of the following problems:

  • If you have abdominal or vaginal pain.
  • If you have a vaginal discharge that itches, burns, or smells.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding lasting longer than 10 days
  • If you have missed periods or have severe menstrual cramps
  • If you have not had a menstrual period by age 15 or 16

You also need a pelvic exam to be fitted for a diaphragm or have an IUD inserted. Continue reading