What Is the Difference Between a Douche and an Enema?

Water is inserted through the anus and into the rectal cavity with an enema, while fluid is inserted into the vaginal cavity with a douche.
An enema may be used to treat constipation.
A reusable enema bag.
Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.
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  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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The main difference between a douche and an enema is that they are distinct procedures that involve different regions of the body. Although in a loose sense both procedures serve to clean out their respective body systems and are therefore somewhat similar, there are many differences between douches and enemas. While an enema is done to relieve constipation by injecting fluid into the rectum, a douche is done to clean the vagina by using a stream of water. Health care providers recommend enemas in some situations, but typically consider douching to be unnecessary and even harmful. Men and women alike can give themselves enemas, whereas only women can douche.

In order to understand the difference between an enema and a douche, it helps to understand exactly what steps each procedure entails. With an enema, a stream of water is inserted through the anus and into the rectal cavity in order to help a patient have a bowel movement. Sometimes pure water is inserted, but in other cases soap or minerals are added to the water. With a douche, fluid is inserted into the vaginal cavity and then suctioned out. The water can contain chemicals or other additives designed to sterilize the vagina and eradicate odors or discharges.

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An important difference between a douche and an enema is the perceived utility of each procedure by the medical community. While enemas are considered to be useful procedures that can help relieve disabling constipation, douching is typically thought to be unnecessary and even harmful. Regular douching can upset the natural bacteria living in the vagina, causing an increase in vaginal discharge and putting the individual at risk for infection. Some of the chemicals included in the douching fluid can be irritating to the sensitive lining of the vaginal wall, leading to irritation and pain.

A douche and an enema also differ in the population that typically uses them. As constipation can affect men and women of all ages, enemas can be used by a wide range of people. Often the enemas are administered by health care professionals, but occasionally can be self-administered at home. In contrast, douches can only be performed on women, and are typically performed at home. As doctors and other health care professionals consider douching to be harmful, the procedure is typically not performed in hospitals or clinics.

One of the other pitfalls of douching is that it can obscure making a proper medical diagnosis. This highlights another difference between a douche and an enema. Relieving constipation doesn't typically affect a doctor's ability to evaluate why a patient is having difficult bowel movements. In contrast, douching can make it more difficult to diagnose underlying infections, such as urinary tract infections or vaginal infections.

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Discuss this Article

anon937395
Post 4

I have been douching for some time now and have had no side effects.

bluedolphin
Post 3

I had to use a glycerin enema the other day. This was the first time ever and I was a bit scared but it worked very well. I had severe constipation and I was almost ready to check myself into a hospital. I will be making use of enemas in the future.

SarahGen
Post 2

@donasmrs-- I think that douching rarely is not harmful. I agree that it should not be done frequently. My doctor told me not to do it but I do douche once in a while. It really does make me feel clean, especially after periods and intercourse.

But if someone is experiencing vaginal odor, douching is not the solution. It can only treat odor for a few days. Plus, odor is probably a sign of a yeast infection or something else.

donasmrs
Post 1

Many women think that they can treat vaginal infections with douching. I have friends who douche and I always tell them not to because it will make things worse, not better.

Some women also douche routinely even when they don't have an infection because they want to feel clean. But the vagina can clean itself, so this is entirely unnecessary.

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