What Is the Difference between a Douche and an Enema?

Clara Kedrek
Clara Kedrek
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.
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.

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.

An enema may be used to treat constipation.
An enema may be used to treat constipation.

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.

A reusable enema bag.
A reusable enema bag.

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.

Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.
Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.

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.

When Should I Get an Enema? 

An enema is a simple procedure, but deciding you need one can be difficult. If you are struggling with constipation and might need an enema, talk to your primary physician and discuss whether you think it's the best plan for your health. 

If you have the following symptoms, consider scheduling an enema consultation: 

  • Constant stomach pain related to constipation
  • Extended constipation
  • Stomach cramps or bloating
  • A deficient fiber diet for multiple weeks
  • Gassiness, nausea, or bloating 

Although regular enemas are generally not an emergent situation, there are emergency enemas. These are usually prescribed when the patient is in imminent danger of a bowel obstruction. Emergency surgery is expensive and rarely necessary. To avoid it, see a doctor when you first feel symptoms. 

The best way to decide whether you need an enema is to ask a medical professional. With consistent symptoms and a professional opinion, you'll be able to determine whether an enema is a suitable choice for your personal health. 

When Should I Get a Douche? 

Because the procedure of douching is potentially dangerous to the person involved, it's rarely necessary to have a douche. For those with vaginal issues such as dryness, itching, and extra fluid, talk to an obstetrician or your primary physician. It's unnecessary to douche to clean a vagina. 

The vagina is delicate and creates its own pH balance, and the presence of any external object or substance can upset that balance. While this is true about douching, it also applies to sexual activities, tampons, and other vaginal inserts. 

If you have excessive vaginal moisture, dryness, or itchiness, a douche isn't necessarily the answer. However, medicated vaginal wipes or other prescribed medications can help assuage the pain and fix the situation without causing any more damage. 

Douching yourself can prevent a doctor from appropriately prescribing medication. Cleaning out the bacteria in your vagina and uterus, a douche preclude a doctor from diagnosing what might actually be the problem. 

Can I do an Enema at home? 

Enemas are surgical procedures and cannot be completed at home. It's dangerous to insert anything into your anus to clear it out. Instead, ensure that you are listening to your doctor and schedule an enema. 

Although many people have induced an enema using Epsom salts in a bath, it's not always the safest way. If you are in danger of bowel obstruction, it can be challenging to make it to a hospital before severely damaging your bowels. 

If a doctor prescribes Epsom salts, homemade enemas, or an at-home remedy, you can do it safely. Ensure that you follow your physician's instructions and continue to monitor your symptoms. Report back to your doctor and follow his instructions. 

Can I do a Douche at Home? 

Most doctors do not offer douche services, so if you are set on douching yourself, it must be at home or a specialty spa. Most doctors won't recommend this procedure, as it can upset the fluid-producing bacteria in the vagina and create a dry, itchy sensation. 

Natural fluids, cervical mucus, and odor are biological for a vagina, especially if you are sexually active. Trying to avoid a smell can lead to dangerously low levels of mucus in your vagina and make intercourse more painful. It's crucial to keep all parts of your body as healthy as possible. 

Why are Douches Popular? 

Douches are not necessarily good for health and aren't recommended by doctors or medical professionals. However, they are growing increasingly popular on online health sites and through influencer trends. This is because of the myth that vaginal smells and fluids are unhealthy and should be avoided. 

In reality, a vagina with a little bit of smell is perfectly healthy. Although there are multiple products selling different vaginal fragrances and deodorants, it's not necessary to do more than rinse your private parts in the shower. They were meant to self-clean and did a great job of keeping unhealthy bacteria out. 


Although there are signs of unhealthy pH balance in the vaginal canal, these usually don't occur in the form of fluids or smells. The smell would have to be extremely strong and fishy, or the fluid excessive and not regular to cause worry.

Discussion Comments

anon937395

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

bluedolphin

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

@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

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.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • 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.
      By: kocakayaali
      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.
      By: Halfpoint
      An enema may be used to treat constipation.
    • A reusable enema bag.
      By: Roman A. Kozlov
      A reusable enema bag.
    • Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.
      By: Brooke Becker
      Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.