Several health belief models suggest that health risk perception could enhance behavioral modification to reduce lifestyle-related risks. Perceived health risks associated with vaginal douching (VD), propensity to douche and effects on douching behaviors were assessed in a cross-sectional survey of 1,463 female undergraduates, aged 18 to 35 years, randomly selected in a tertiary institution between 2011 and 2012. A 3-section semi-structured socio-demographic questionnaire on female genital tract hygiene practice was used for data collection. We conducted logistic regression analysis to test for association between douching and perceived health risk. The overall prevalence of VD was 79.2%. Most douchers (79.8%) lacked knowledge of risks associated with VD, 78.3% had misbeliefs about VD, 76.0% accepted the practice, 50.6% would have stopped if they had known the associated risks and 56.4% expressed fear of genital tract infections if they stopped douching. False beliefs and lack of knowledge about the health risks associated with VD increased the odds of douching among douchers (p < 0.05). Low health risk perception and misconceptions about VD are the primary reasons for douching. Therefore, providing health education on the associated health risks of VD to female adolescents and young adult women may help to discourage VD among women in our societies.
Key words: Vaginal douching, perceived health effects, young women.
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