You probably shouldn’t. Douching has been shown to contribute to damaged fallopian tubes and ectopic pregnancies, and can reduce the level of good bacteria in the vagina, which makes infection more likely, and conception more difficult. In fact, a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women who douche were 30% less likely to conceive in a given month than those who do not douche, so you’re probably best avoiding douching while TTC.
What is douching?
Douches are squirt bottles attached to a tube that are used to rinse the vagina, usually with a mixture of water, vinegar, and sometimes perfumes. It’s estimated that less than half of women douche regularly, but it is still quite common. Douching is generally done for cosmetic reasons.
How can douching reduce my chances of conceiving?
Douching can have a number of grave side effects for those who are trying to conceive (and really for anybody who douches), including creating an inhospitable environment for sperm, increasing the likelihood of contracting a vaginal infection, and elevating the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
Simply put, the vagina is quite talented, possessing the mechanism to clean itself. Douching interferes with the natural balance of the vagina, killing off the good, helpful bacteria, while leaving the dangerous bacteria around, creating an environment that is not as conducive for sperm as usual. Because the balance is thrown off, there is also an elevated likelihood of developing bacterial infections of the vagina, which can severely reduce your chances of conceiving.
Douching after sex can also lead to an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants in a fallopian tube, rather than the uterine wall), and other damage to the fallopian tube. Women who have ectopic pregnancies risk removal of a tube, and decreased fertility for life. Douching has also been linked to cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, and vulvovaginal candidiasis among other complications that could make conceiving more difficult.
The bottom line
Unless specifically instructed to by your healthcare provider, douching is unhealthy and not recommended, regardless of whether you are trying to conceive. Furthermore, women who are trying to conceive can encounter issues that make getting pregnant more difficult, so it’s especially important for those who are TTC to avoid douching.