Q: At what age can my teen-age daughter start douching?
A: We are not in favor of douching at any age. The vagina has built-in physiologic defense mechanisms that usually protect it from infections. Douching offers no additional advantage.
Some women douche because they note a change in the odor, amount, or color of their vaginal discharge. Often these changes are quite normal and would resolve without any additional action.
However, a change in odor, color, or amount of discharge can be an important sign that an infection is present, especially if the young woman is sexually active. In this case, douching may actually be harmful.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who douched recently were more likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease (a very serious infection of the uterus and Fallopian tubes) than were women who did not douche.
Among women who douched, those who did so frequently were more likely to develop this condition than were women who douched occasionally.
Dr. Wilson is director of pediatric primary care of the Johns
Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.