Study: Douching Delays Conception

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Maybe the old wives were right all along. Scientists thought they had debunked the myth that douching could keep a woman from getting pregnant, but a new government study says the practice can reduce fertility by as much as 50 percent. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study of 840 women reported that women who douched most often had the lowest pregnancy rate: 27 percent had not conceived after a year compared to just 10 percent of women who never or rarely douched. The practice is still very common even though doctors have long believed that healthy women get no benefit from douching, and it has been shown to increase the risk of serious pelvic infections. The anti-fertility effects, the study found, remain in force even if a would-be mother douches many days before or after having sex. It also doesn't matter whether women use commercial douches, mix vinegar and water or use plain water. But as TIME's Janice Horowitz cautions: "This doesn't mean that women should consider douching as their method of birth control. It's nowhere close to 100 percent effective." Jenifer Mattos