A new study out of George Washington University has found that douching with feminine hygiene products may expose users to harmful chemicals that can wreak havoc on their hormones. So not only is douching now discouraged due to its role in raising a woman’s risk of bacterial infections and cancer, it’s also potentially dangerous to the endocrine system.
According to Reuters, the study tested the urine of 739 women who had different vaginal cleansing habits in the recent past. Those who douched regularly, researchers found, were more likely to be exposed to diethyl phthalate (DEP), which could have disastrous effects on one’s health.
“Phthalates are chemicals of concern for women’s health because they are suspected endocrine disruptors and can alter the action of important hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones,” said lead study author Ami Zota, a researcher at the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University.
The study found that women between the ages of 20 and 49 who had douched one or more times in the past month had a much higher percentage of DEP in their urine, suggesting that there’s a correlation between using a douching product and an increase of DEP in the body. And while researchers haven’t completely determined that the increase in DEP is solely related to douching or that phthalates are as harmful as they’re suspected to be, experts suggest that douching be discontinued as a general rule.
“Douching is not medically required,” Zota said. “A healthy vagina has an effective self-cleaning system.”
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In addition, Dr. Sten Vermund, assistant vice chancellor for global health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who was not involved in the actual study but was asked about the harm in douching, had this to say about the practice.
“No woman should be douching unless instructed by a health care provider to treat a specific vaginal infection, so there is no point in reading the labels,” Vermund, who wasn’t involved in the study, said in an email. “That’s like saying ‘What cigarette should I buy?’ when the point is not to buy any.”
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