December 28, 2005
Education persuades young women to avoid douching
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Education about the possible
health risks of douching can convince teenage girls and young
women to give up the practice, a new study shows.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
found that three quick counseling sessions with young women at
their clinic were enough to persuade nearly half to give up
Vaginal douching is a common practice, with more than
one-quarter of U.S. women of childbearing age saying they
douche regularly. African-American women and teenagers are
especially likely to do so, according to a report published in
the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
But health professionals generally advise against douching
because it's thought to raise the risk of certain health
problems, including bacterial infections and pregnancy
complications like preterm birth. Though it's not clear that
douching is the cause of these problems, experts believe that
the practice may disturb the normal balance of beneficial
bacteria in the vagina.
In the new study, Dr. Diane M. Grimley and her colleagues
looked at whether a few counseling sessions at an adolescent
health clinic could convince young women to give up the
The researchers randomly assigned 275 patients ages 14 to
23 to one of two groups: one that received three 15-minute
counseling sessions on why and how to stop douching; and a
comparison group that attended three nutrition-counseling
sessions. All of the participants had said they douched at
least once in the past month.
One year into the study, 49 percent of the young women who
received information on douching said they had not douched in
the past 3 months. That compared with roughly 21 percent in the
The fact that three quick counseling sessions convinced
almost half of the women to stop douching suggests that it
would be relatively easy for health providers to persuade more
women to do so, according to Grimley and her colleagues.
"Interventions of this sort might readily be incorporated
into public health efforts to reduce douching," they conclude.
SOURCE: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, December 2005.