Background: Vaginal douching has been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in several epidemiologic studies.
Methods: To determine the extent to which douching is practiced and to describe the population subgroups in which it is most prevalent, we analyzed data from the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth, which is based on a nationally representative sample of 8450 United States women between the ages of 15 and 44 years.
Results: Thirty-seven percent of the sample reported douching; 18% douched at least once a week. The variable most strongly and consistently associated with douching was race: two thirds of Black women, but only one third of White women, reported douching. The practice was least frequent among 15- to 19-year-olds (31%) and most frequent among 20- to 24-year-olds (41%). Douching was more common among women who lived in poverty (50%) than among those who did not (28%). Seventy percent of Black women living in poverty reported douching. Women with less than a high school education were almost four times more likely to report douching as those with 16 or more years of schooling (56% vs 16%). Women with only 1 partner and those with 10 or more partners were less likely to douche than others. Sixteen percent of women who reported douching, compared with 10% of those who did not, also reported a history of PID.
Conclusions: Douching may be a modifiable risk factor for PID, it should be a high priority for future etiologic research.