When I was a young teenager (about a decade ago, give or take 50 years), I remember the constant assault to my self-esteem from the onslaught of ads for douches. Obviously, I hadn’t yet developed the confidence to question the veracity of such ads. In reality, I wish someone would have told me that our healthy vaginas were never designed to smell like a bouquet of gardenias or a field of wild lilacs.

Is it any wonder that women grow up believing they are dirty all the time and in need of douching and spraying away the “discharge”? The continual advertising of douches and feminine sprays only acts to reinforce the confusion between healthy cervical fluid and what is in fact a true infection.

Douching alters the normal acidity of the vagina and is not necessary for women. It adversely changes the normal pH balance and can ironically lead to vaginal infections and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It can also alter the vaginal environment to such an extent that sperm can’t survive. It may cause inflammations or allergic reactions that can kill sperm or impair sperm survival. And finally, it may wash away the very cervical fluid that sperm need to get through the cervix to the egg. Other than that, hey, douching’s no problem!

“Ahhhh” you say. “Good to know. But what about the trendy new practice I keep hearing about? Vaginal steaming.” My answer? DON’T! Just don’t! In addition to the obvious fact that the vulva is incredibly sensitive, and steam can cause serious burns, there is no proof that steaming your vagina cleanses anything. As mentioned above, your vagina is self-cleaning, filled with healthy bacteria that helps to keep your vaginal pH balanced. Both douching and steaming can increase the risk of infection.

So for now on, keep steaming to what it’s best for: making veggies bright green and delectable and saunas the perfect place to relax and unwind.