Douching is the process of using water or a liquid solution to flush out the inside of your vagina. They’re done using bottles or bags with nozzles that squirt liquid up into the vagina. Most come with a prepackaged solution of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine.
But some people buy an empty douche bag and fill it with their own solution. A peroxide douche is a type of douche that uses a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Some claim that douching with hydrogen peroxide can help to treat bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Hydrogen peroxide comes in many strengths, but the type you find at your local drugstore is usually a 3 percent concentration. This type of hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic solution often used to disinfect wounds. During a process called oxidation, hydrogen peroxide breaks down the cell walls of bacteria.
Can this oxidation process help to break down excess yeast and bacteria in the vagina? Read on to find out.
The first line of defense against BV is antibiotic therapy. If your doctor gives you a BV diagnosis, they’ll prescribe either oral antibiotics or an antibiotic cream. Antibiotics work well in the short-term.
Most people see their symptoms disappear within three weeks. But it’s also common for it to come back within 3 to 12 months. In addition, the antibiotics used to treat BV can have several side effects, including:
- yeast infection
A hydrogen peroxide douche helps to avoid the use of antibiotics and their side effects.
There aren’t many studies looking at the use of hydrogen peroxide douches for treating BV.
A 2012 literature review looked at existing studies about the use of antiseptics, such as hydrogen peroxide, to treat BV. The authors did find some small studies suggesting that antiseptic solutions might be as effective as antibiotics. But they also noted that most of the existing research surrounding antiseptic douching is flawed.
Based on these issues and the existing research, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend antiseptic douching for BV. But this could change if more high-quality studies are done.
Healthcare providers generally advise against douching because it has more risks than benefits.
Douching, especially antiseptic douching, can throw the vaginal microbiome into chaos. Antiseptics are like broad-spectrum antibiotics since they kill both good and bad bacteria.
The good bacteria in your vagina serves a purpose, including helping to protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and yeast infections.
Douching can also throw off the natural acidity that protects your vagina against infection. Using a reusable douche can introduce mold and other fungus into the vagina.
If you already have BV, douching of any kind can cause the infection to spread. You may inadvertently flush bacteria up into your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This can cause a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause chronic pain and infertility.
Additionally, peroxide douching can lead to irritation of the vagina and vulva. In one study on hydrogen peroxide douching, more than 30 percent of participants reported vaginal irritation.
It’s important to treat BV as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can increase your risk for STIs, including HIV and genital herpes. It also increases your risk for pregnancy complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight.
Treatment for BV involves a course of antibiotics. You’ll need to get a prescription from your doctor. Sex partners with a penis typically don’t require treatment, but sex partners with a vagina should be tested.
Medications commonly prescribed to treat BV include:
- Metronidazole (Flagyl, Metrogel-Vaginal). This is an antibiotic taken by mouth or applied topically. Topical metronidazole is a gel inserted into the vagina. Side effects include an upset stomach.
- Clindamycin (Cleocin, Clindesse, others). This medication can also be taken by mouth, but is usually prescribed as a topical cream for BV. The cream can weaken latex condoms, so make sure to use a backup form of birth control if you use condoms.
- Tinidazole (Tindamax). This is another oral antibiotic. It may also cause an upset stomach.
It’s important to treat BV to avoid complications, but douching isn’t the best method.
Douching with hydrogen peroxide can cause vaginal irritation, and douching in general while you have BV can spread the infection further up your urinary tract. If you think you have BV, make an appointment so you can get started on antibiotics.