Vaginal douches might be dangerous to women beyond previous concerns that doctors have expressed related to this practice, due to high phthalate concentrations.
The issue of vaginal douches is a very intricate matter, even in the medical community. The practice of douching implies using a special device called an irrigator (as displayed in the photo above) that pushes an antiseptic liquid solution in the vaginal canal with a certain amount of pressure, so that the entire canal is bathed. This is different from washing the vaginal canal in the shower with water only, because the antiseptic solution might disrupt the development of the positive bacteria that is present in the vaginal canal.
There are many commercial products sold in drug stores that can be used for douching, but some women still use empirical recipes for their douches, such as vinegar and water. In the event that the douche solution is too concentrated, it might cause local damage to the vaginal canal. Furthermore, frequent use of vaginal douches has been linked to an increased risk of acquiring genital infections and even pelvic inflammatory disease.
However, a recent research project has revealed that there are even more problems that vaginal douches might bring about. Upon testing over 800 women, they have concluded that the phthalate level in the urine of the women who use douches habitually was exponentially higher than that of women who do not use it.
The women were included in a massive survey regarding feminine product use and they were asked to participate in the phthalate study as well. The scientists discovered that women who use douches once a month had 52% higher diethyl phthalate (DEP) levels than women who did not use the products. Furthermore, women who use douches two or more times each month presented 152% higher DEP levels.
“This study suggests, for the first time, that vaginal douches may increase a woman’s exposure to phthalates, chemicals that may alter hormone action and are associated with serious health problems,” says Dr. Ami Zota, assistant professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the lead author of the study.
The DEP is commonly used in cosmetic products to prolong their perfume, but it seems that administering the phthalates in the vaginal canal makes them particularly easy to absorb and this is why the levels were so high.
Phthalates have been linked to significant health issues in both men and women, such as hormonal disorders and “behavioral and developmental problems” in infants, because they get exposed in the womb. The entire extent of the damage that they cause has not yet been fully described, but there are quite a few health organizations conducting research on the matter at the moment.
It remains to be seen just how damaging phthalates are to our bodies, but there is significant concern from the medical community on the matter. And since their absorption level is higher when administered intra-vaginally, vaginal douche products pose increased risks. The best way to remain protected, at least to a certain extent, from phthalate exposure and several other gynecological issues, is for women to steer clear of vaginal douching all together.
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