We hope to one day live in a world where we don’t have to say this: please don’t steam your vagina.
Vagina steaming is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s been around for yonks in holistic health circles who believe they have to ‘cleanse’ the ‘yoni’ by shoving hot air up there, but has been massively popularised thanks to celebs praising its claimed benefits.
Gwyneth Paltrow mentioned vaginal steaming on Goop (home of other brilliant advice such as using a spray to get rid of vampires and walking around barefoot to treat depression) and Chrissy Teigen shared a photo of herself squatting over a special steaming stool.
Have a quick Google and you’ll find endless articles about vaginal steaming, varying in accuracy, and if you take a browse through Etsy you’ll find products expressly for the purposes of shooting steam up your nether regions, from herbal infusions for the water to special ‘spa’ towels with vulva shaped holes.
Are there vaginal steaming benefits?
Fans of the treatment claim that vaginal steaming ‘cleanses the uterus’ (the steam would have a hard time getting in there), detoxes the vagina, rebalances hormones, tightens the vagina, reduces cramps, and even provides people with more energy.
All evidence points to these claimed benefits being total nonsense.
And not only is there no scientific backing to suggest that vaginal steaming is beneficial in any way, but aiming steam at your vulva can be harmful… and yet people are still doing it.
This week a case was reported in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada which detailed a woman who was left with severe second-degree burns on her genitals thanks to vaginal steaming.
The journal reports that the 62-year-old woman was seeing a traditional Chinese doctor, who advised her to try steaming at home by mixing a herbal medicine with a pan of boiling water and then sitting over it for 20 minutes.
She decided to give the treatment a go as she was suffering from a vaginal prolapse and believed that steaming could be a way to avoid surgery.
After trying it out for a second time and feeling quite uncomfortable, the woman went to doctors for a second opinion. They found that she had second-degree burns. The woman still had to have surgery to treat her vaginal prolapse, but had to wait for the burns to heal first.
Evidently – despite all the articles and experts saying that vaginal steaming is not a wise idea – people are still going ahead and trying to treat their vagina with steam.
Clearly we need a reminder of why you definitely shouldn’t do such a thing. Let’s have at it.
First off, let’s get rid of the idea that steaming is an effective way to ‘clean’ the vagina.
The vagina (the internal bits of the genitals, that you can’t see) does not need to be cleaned. It’s a magical part of the body that takes care of itself, maintaining its perfect pH balance to keep good bacteria there and kick bad stuff out. The vagina is perfectly capable of looking after itself, and anything you do to attempt to clean it will end up disrupting that process and likely leave you with an infection.
‘It’s a myth that the vagina needs extensive cleaning as it is designed to clean itself with natural secretions,’ Dr Vanessa Mackay, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘The vagina contains good bacteria, which are there to protect it. If these bacteria are disturbed it can lead to infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush, and inflammation.
‘Steaming the vagina could affect this healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels and cause irritation, infection (such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush) and inflammation.’
Water of any sort shouldn’t go into the vagina as alongside disrupting the vagina’s healthy bacteria, it also wrecks the vagina’s natural lubrication.
If you’ve ever attempted to have sex in a pool or shower, you’ll know that water definitely doesn’t make your vagina wetter. Instead it dries it out, leaving the vagina more at risk of cuts, irritation, and discomfort.
Even steam produced from plain old water would disrupt the vagina’s delicate ecosystem, but most steams will incorporate some sort of herbal remedy – which can cause even greater irritation.
We repeat: the vagina does not need to be cleaned internally, ever. If you’re wondering how to clean your genitals, it’s very simple. Use warm water only on the outside bits, the vulva. That’s it.
So even lukewarm water used internally would be bad for the vagina. If you then heat it up to the point of steam, you’re facing even more risks.
You could get severely burned, as demonstrated by the woman we mentioned above. That would cause a lot of pain and discomfort and require an embarrassing trip to the doctor.
Heating the vagina isn’t a good plan because it really should be kept at its normal, happy temperature of 37C. If you warm up your vagina you’re making it a lovely hotbed for bad bacteria, causing yeast infections. The heat will also make your vagina itch.
So that’s all the bad stuff that vaginal steaming will bring… what about the good stuff?
Sorry, but there is none.
While sitting down for 20 minutes and doing nothing could reduce stress, the actual steaming of the vagina has no scientifically proven benefits.
The vagina doesn’t need to be ‘detoxed’ – as we mentioned, it looks after itself – but steam of any sort wouldn’t do anything to rid you of ‘toxins’.
Steam up the vagina cannot alter your hormones. It could perhaps temporarily reduce cramps in the same way a hot water bottle on your tummy does – warmth relaxes the muscles – but it will not provide a radical change. Steaming definitely cannot treat a prolapse, which requires surgery. Hot water or steam will do nothing to tighten the vagina. The warmth will probably make you sleep, rather than providing you with energy.
If you’re experiencing an issue with your vagina, whether that’s discomfort or worries about how it feels, looks, smells, tastes, don’t faff around with steam and herbal treatments you found online. Go to your GP or a gynaecologist and get checked over.
Attempting a vaginal steam will do you no good, it could do you harm, and it could cover up a problem that has a far simpler explanation than your vagina needing some herbs.
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