Background: Although douching is common, it is a potentially harmful habit.
Goal: We studied attitudes and knowledge around the behavior of douching.
Study design: Of 1,200 women enrolled in this multisite study, 532 douched and answered questions on a structured interview regarding douching behaviors.
Results: Over half had douched for 5 or more years. Douching was most often initiated on the recommendation of female relatives and practiced for reasons of hygiene. Half of women considered douching to be healthy. Those who considered douching to be unhealthy reported that douching may disrupt vaginal flora but did not cite more serious risks. Nonetheless, women who had been advised by a health professional to stop douching were less likely to consider douching healthful and were more likely to have tried to stop.
Conclusion: Women had a limited understanding of potential adverse health consequences associated with douching. Targeted health messages may influence women to initiate douching cessation.