NEW ORLEANS — Despite the growing consensus that douching can threaten gynecologic health, the practice is not widely discouraged by health care providers, results of a small survey suggest.
Furthermore, 73% of the 57 women surveyed (all douched or had practiced douching at some point) said they had encouraged or would encourage the girl or girls they were parenting to douche, Richard Rupp, M.D., reported in a poster that was presented during the annual meeting of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.
The women, who were recruited from a university-based teen clinic, were the mothers, grandmothers, or aunts of girls aged 11–21 years. The women ranged in age from 30 to 68 years (mean age 41 years).
More than half (53%) were African American, 28% were non-Hispanic white, 17% were Hispanic, and 2% were of other ethnicities, reported Dr. Rupp of the University of Texas, Galveston.
The women were questioned about their personal douching history, beliefs about douching, and any discussions they had or planned to have with the girls regarding the practice. Douching frequency was once every 2 months or less in 20% of respondents, once or twice each month in 66% of respondents, and at least once each week in 14% of respondents.
All except one of the 57 women had discussed or planned to discuss douching with the girl or girls they were parenting.
Only 10 of the surveyed women said a health care professional had ever discussed douching with them or the girls, and only 5 said they felt the health care professional discouraged the practice.
More than 40% of the respondents had not discussed—and had no plans for discussing—any negative aspects of douching with the girls.
The most common statements that the women made or planned to make were that douching:
▸ Helps with cleanliness/feminine hygiene (89% of respondents).
▸ Treats vaginal odor (43% of respondents).
▸ Can cause vaginal irritation (36% of respondents).
▸ May cause vaginal infections (30%).
▸ Is not reliable for birth control (27%).
▸ Is unnecessary (24%).
The mean age of girls with whom they already discussed douching was 16 years, and the mean age of the girls with whom they had not discussed douching was 14 years, Dr. Rupp noted in the poster.
The findings of this study show that adult women are an important source of information about douching for the girls they parent, and suggest that health care professionals should address the matter of douching with adult patients as their girls enter the 14- to 16-year age group, he concluded, noting that public campaigns designed to decrease douching should target the matter of intergenerational information exchange.