There's a Scary Reason You Should Never Douche

Gynos everywhere agree that douching isn't great for your health — that it poses too many risks (of bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and, potentially, cervical cancer) without proof of benefits.

Now, new research suggests that douching products can increase your exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates, which are added to many feminine care products (including tampons and pads) for fragrance or functional purposes, and can be absorbed through the vaginal walls. 

Once phthalates are in your system, they can disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of chronic disease, and lead to reproductive and developmental problems — particularly among newborns who are exposed in vitro.

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In the study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Health, researchers compared feminine product use (from douching products to tampons and pads) and urine samples of 739 women.

Women who reported douching at least twice a month had 152% (!) higher traces of phthalate byproduct in their urine than women who didn't douche at all. So if you're clearing douching products off the shelves, there's no better time to rethink your habit.

Women who used feminine sprays and powders also had slightly elevated levels of phthalate byproduct in their urine, although those associations were less significant and less worrisome. And to the surprise of researchers, tampon and pad users seemed to be in the clear.

"It is possible that the phthalates from products specifically used during menstruation [like tampons and pads] may have cleared out of the body in women who were surveyed several weeks after menstruation," explains lead study author Ami Zota, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

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Or it could be that "the products designed for external use [like pads and wipes] result in less exposure," she adds.

Another thing: Researchers didn't differentiate between scented and unscented tampons in this study — so they don't know whether certain tampons are riskier than others. (Generally, fragrance-free products contain fewer chemicals, but menstrual product manufacturers aren't required to disclose ingredients.)

So until more research is conducted, there's no reason to forgo your regular lady products. (After all, free-bleeding isn't for everyone.) Stick with 100% cotton tampons (like these!) when you can. And lay off the douching — it's dangerous.

From: Cosmopolitan 
Photo by Getty images 

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