Douching in relation to bacterial vaginosis, lactobacilli, and facultative bacteria in the vagina

Roberta B. Ness, Sharon L. Hillier, Holly E. Richter, David E. Soper, Carol Stamm, James McGregor, Debra C. Bass, Richard L Sweet, Peter Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To study how frequency, recentness, and reason for douching impact bacterial vaginosis-related vaginal microflora and the occurrence of cervical pathogens. Douching has been linked to bacterial vaginosis as well as to chlamydial cervicitis in some, but not all, studies. METHODS: A total of 1200 women at high risk for sexually transmitted infections were enrolled from five clinical sites around the United States. Cross-sectional, structured interviews were conducted and vaginal swabs were self-obtained for Gram stain, culture, and DNA amplification tests for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis. RESULTS: Douching at least once per month was associated with an increased frequency of bacterial vaginosis. Those who douched recently (within 7 days) were at highest risk [odds ratio (OR) 2.1, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3, 3.1]. Douching for symptoms (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.1, 2.6) and for hygiene (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0, 1.9) both related to bacterial vaginosis risk. The associations between douching and Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, and lack of hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli were similar to those between douching and bacterial vaginosis. Gonococcal or chlamydial cervicitis was not associated with douching. CONCLUSION: Douching for symptoms or hygiene, particularly frequent or recent douching, was associated with bacterial vaginosis and bacterial vaginosis-associated vaginal microflora, but not with gonococcal or chlamydial cervicitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-772
Number of pages8
JournalObstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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