Gwenyth Paltrow’s wellness advice may be trendy—but apparently it can cause serious injury. One woman learned that the hard way when she tried a Paltrow-endorsed therapy called "vaginal steaming" and ended up in the ER with a second-degree burn on her vagina.
According to a case report from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, the 62-year-old woman had a prolapsed vagina—meaning her vagina had fallen out of the pelvic cavity due to weakening of the muscles and tissues that normally hold it in place.
She was preparing to get vaginal reconstructive surgery to treat the prolapse when she decided to take matters into her own hands and try v-steaming to fix the issue on her own.
She told doctors that she followed the advice of a traditional Chinese physician, who told her to place a pan of boiling water in the rim of her toilet seat, then to sit on the toilet for 20 minutes. She did this twice over two days.
Doctors then found that she had a second degree burn across her cervix and vaginal mucosa (part of the vaginal wall, which was outside of her body due to the prolapse). To treat the burn, she was advised to apply antibiotic ointment and wrap the area in gauze, and was discharged without any further complications.
The practice of vaginal steaming has been around for ages, but it became more popular after Paltrow raved about it on her wellness brand, Goop.
"You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al," Paltrow explained in 2017 on the Goop website. "It is an energetic release, not just a steam douche, that balances female hormone levels."
But this case study is a prime example of why this isn't exactly the smartest idea.
"It probably feels good because the heat increases blood flow to the whole vaginal area, including the clitoris, which could turn some women on," Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an ob-gyn at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, previously told Health. "But if you got too close to the steam, you could end up with second degree burns down there."
Not to mention, the steam itself can increase moisture in and around your vagina, which can make you more susceptible to yeast and bad bacteria growth, Taraneh Shirazian, MD, an ob-gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Health.
Ultimately, there's no way for the steam to actually reach your uterus to supposedly cleanse it—and your vagina takes care of cleaning itself, says Dr. Shirazian. Sorry, Gwenyth, we're with science on this one.
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