Vaginal Douches and Other Feminine Hygiene Products: Women's Practices and Perceptions of Product Safety
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Objective: Use of vaginal douche products has been linked with a variety of reproductive health problems; nonetheless, the practice of douching persists. The goals of this study were to 1) determine the use of vaginal douches and other feminine hygiene products, 2) ascertain how safe women think vaginal douche products are, and 3) evaluate women's readiness to stop douching. Methods: A random-digit-dial computer-assisted telephone survey was conducted among US women between the ages of 18 and 44. Results: Of the 2,602 women interviewed, 11.8% (n = 307) engaged in regular douching (White: 9.1%; African American: 27.7%; Hispanic: 15.0%). Women who douched, compared to women who did not douche, used other feminine hygiene products significantly more often (vaginal sprays [ p < .0001], wipes/towelettes [ p < 0.01], vaginal powder [ p < 0.0001] and bubble bath for feminine cleansing [ p < 0.001]). Women who douched also were more likely than nondouchers to agree with the statement, “Douche products are safe to use; otherwise they wouldn't be on the market” (70.3% vs. 33.4%, respectively; p < 0.0001). Nearly all women (90.0%) who douched had no intention to discontinue the practice. Conclusion: Compared with women who do not douche, women who douche use other feminine hygiene products at a much higher rate and also believe that douche products are safe. Women who douche will remain resistant to stopping the practice without innovative interventions. Given that most women start douching in adolescence, teens should be targeted for prevention efforts.
KEY WORDS:douching feminine hygiene feminine products women's reproductive health
This study was funded by grant # S1451 provided by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The authors thank Christopher H. Johnson, M.S., from the CDC, Division of Reproductive Health for his thoughtful review and comments on this manuscript.
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