Dear Dr. Kate,
A couple of weeks ago I douched after my period ended. A couple of days later, I had intercourse. A few days after that, my vagina started itching around the outside, and when I went to urinate I noticed my discharge was kind of like cottage cheesey, milky color and no smell to it. It worried me because it’s never been like that before but I had never douched either. A couple days later I had intercourse again and it was a little painful at the end and burned when I urinated. Now it’s back to normal. Should I worry and get checked or is it an after-effect from douching?
— Don’t Call Me a Douche
The symptoms of itching and cottage-cheese discharge are classic for a yeast infection, as are pain during intercourse and during urination. A yeast infection isn’t dangerous, just incredibly uncomfortable, and it may resolve on its own. So if you’re feeling well now, there’s no need to rush to the gyno.
But your experience is a perfect example of why NOT to douche. Your body cleans itself after your period — there’s no need to douche. Even douching with plain water can wash away healthy bacteria (increasing your risk of vaginal infections), or push bacteria up into your uterus (increasing your risk of PID). Showering and standard, external washing is sufficient to keep you clean.
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.