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Guest Contributor Kwegyirba Aggrey-Orleans: Why do African women douche?

My mother always told me that douching was not necessary. And she was even against my use of tampons because she didn’t like me “introducing” things into my sensitive parts. (But I still did!) So I pretty much assumed all women knew that douching was old fashioned, unnecessary and maybe even harmful until I saw a douche set in my friend’s bathroom.  Apparently, more African women douche than any other race. Why? Go figure. So I read more about douching and I would like to share some myths about it.

Why Women Use Vaginal Douches:

  • To rinse away any remaining menstrual blood at the end of the monthly period.
  • Some women douche following sexual intercourse to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • To reduce vaginal odours.
  • Women sometimes don’t feel they are clean unless they use vaginal douches regularly.
  • Women douche with some concoctions to make them “tighter”.
  • Women douche to dry them up so there is more friction during sex to satisfy men.

The last two points were obtained from speaking to some prostitutes at a brothel in Accra. Oh and boy do they douche with weird things! Try disinfectant and hot water! Before I digress, the point here isn’t that women should not douche with particular things. The point is that women should not douche at all. Not. At. All. Even if it’s with the imported “summers eve” or “femfresh” douches etc.

  • Douching is neither a contraceptive, or preventative measure against STDs or other infections.
  • Women who have an unusual vaginal odour need to see their doctor for proper diagnosis, using a douche may only intensify the problem.
  • It has been scientifically proven that the vagina has its own way of cleaning itself by the production of mucous.
  • Also when a woman has her period, the vagina cleans itself with the flow of the blood.  It’s like washing a clean dress.
  • Regular vaginal douching changes the delicate chemical balance of the vagina and can make a woman more susceptible to infections. Douching can introduce new bacteria into the vagina which can spread up through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Researchers have found that women who douche regularly experience more vaginal irritations and infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, and an increased number of sexually transmitted diseases.

For these reasons, douching is no longer recommended as a safe or healthy way to routinely clean the vagina. The only safe and healthy way to clean the vagina is to let the vagina clean itself. The delicate chemical balance of the vagina is very sensitive and easily disrupted by routine vaginal douching.

How does the vagina clean itself?

The vagina cleans itself naturally with its own mucous secretions. When bathing or showering use warm water and gentle unscented soap to cleanse the outer areas of the vagina. Feminine hygiene products such as soaps, powders, and sprays are not necessary and may lead to irritation of sensitive tissues.

 What are your thoughts?

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Published on: 01 August 2009 by in General Issues

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14 Comments
  1. Esther says:

    When i was doing my undergrad studies, all first year female students received a package which contained douche spray and other items. I actually enjoyed using it. It was something new. These items are quite commonly used. The word should get out about the harm it can cause. Your article is informative. Thanks! I will definitely do more research on this issue.

  2. abbynah says:

    Disinfectant and hot water! OMG
    My heart actually skipped a beat when I read that. I would have thought that women who douche would be experiencing some sort of side effects..how they don’t realise that it’s nto right is beyond me…

  3. Sugabelly says:

    The number one reason African women douche (and this is true whether they realise it or not) is because most African women grow up in a society where the vagina is viewed as an evil, dirty thing.

    Most women won’t even say the word vagina. They use stupid euphemisms for it and we all know that numerous African women think oral sex (on women) is dirty and vile.

    People douche because they unconsciously feel that the vagina is so especially dirty that nothing but a specially concocted cleaning mixture will clean it.

    This of course doesn’t include the alum douches that make your vagina tighter. Neither does it include the juju douches used to capture rich men ;)

  4. Kwegyirba says:

    @ Esther, I find it rather disturbing that a University would distribute douching products. I would have thought that with all the abundant research and information on this subject, they would be the first to “preach” against it. Ah, what do you know. We live to learn.
    @Abbynah, you have no idea how my skin crawled when I heard these concoctions. You’d think we were scrubbing a bath tub!
    @ Sugabelly, hahaha, need I say more. Trust you to be candid and crazy about it too!

  5. Nana says:

    I am not too sure whether this experience counts as “douching”. Is that even a word?

    In secondary school I (and several friends) suffered terribly from thrush, popularly referred to in those days as “white white”. I remember washing my vagina sometimes with raw dettol to stop the itching! I even remember me and a friend taking it in turns to squeeze lemon juice into each others vagina because we had heard that stopped the itching. I think it was only in IB1 (the equivalent of Lower Six) that I stopped subjecting my poor vagina to such torture, when my room mate at the time expressed her horror at me washing my vagina with dettol.

  6. BrownAangel says:

    I never did get the douching thing either Kwegyirba.. It plays a huge role in the way African women treat their bodies and their sexual relatioinships.
    Thank God the vagina monologues made me curious about mine and encouraged me to get to know it.

    ahem @ the “interviews with the prossies”. How did you select which of them to interview? and what was their reaction to asking them such personal questions? Are these people you know or did you just befriend them over time?

    {P.s. Nana… I think we need to get a few questions and ask some prostitutes. i.e. What you’ve always wanted to know about the sex trade in Ghana…. i’m sure there are so many myths that can be debunked..such as the reasons for entering into the business and the tricks of the trade)

    p.p.s. I never did get the ratio for the alum douche… this is a knowledge forum so please share the knowledge LOL.

  7. Kwegyirba says:

    @Nana, I don’t think that would be technically douching. With douching a spray of liquid is pumped ‘into’ the vagina to wash it out. But from your description you were not quite there. I don’t think the lemon juice was harmful though. God’s own antiseptic. The dettol is another story.
    @Brown Sugar, you will find that the “prossies” are the most liberated women ever. I asked them in a matter-of-factly manner. The key is not to be judgmental.
    Yes I agree, sugabelly should give us the alum ratio… Maybe it might come in handy one day when I’m old and wrinkly! Hehehe.

  8. Sugabelly says:

    LOL. I don’t know what the alum ratio is. I’ve never tried it. I’ve always been very suspicious of the reported properties of alum douches. I keep thinking what if it burns my vagina shut? then what?

  9. Nana says:

    @BrownAngel – It’s a great idea to interview Sex Workers – It could form part of “The Sex Interviews” process. I think Kwegyirba has already built some relationships and sounds like the best person for the job. @Kwegyirba, what do you say?

  10. I second the sex workers interview idea. I have so many questions. Like you always hear how prossies do what they do because they have no other choice. I think that’s a myth.

    But on the topic, never douched and never will. Sounds scary.

  11. Kwegyirba says:

    Ok, you’re on! Unfortunately, it will have to wait till my vacation is over. For now we can work on the questions and we will go from there.

  12. Golda says:

    Well, I was born to medical parents … and we were 3 girls for a long time until the last-baby – a boy came along. Hence, both parents used to warn as a lot about douching … I knew what it was as soon as i got to 6th Grade, and have always known its neg consequences.
    Chapeau to Kwegirba for this article!

  13. leila says:

    a lot of people use ‘femfresh’ etc. i wash actually told by a doctor in the UK to stop using it as it gave me thrush.

  14. gyftedartyst says:

    Hey, very interesting article. Learned a lot. Thanks.

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