We've had the cucumber cleanse (do yourself a favor and don't click), the garlic vagina trend (same advice) and – oh god – people putting wasps nests up there. Now there's a new trend to add to the horrifying list of dangerous and baffling things you should not do to your vagina: vaginal steaming.
Vaginal steaming, or "v-steaming" to people who are too embarrassed to say vagina and "yoni steaming" to hippies, is a "treatment" where women sit or squat above a steaming vat of water containing herbs such as mugwort, wormwood, and basil in an effort to "cleanse" their genitalia. As well as unnecessary, it's not as risk-free as you might think (and squatting over a steaming pot of water doesn't exactly scream "SAFETY" if we're honest).
A 62-year-old woman in Canada has been left with burns after attempting the treatment. A case study, published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Canada, documents how she had attempted to use the treatment to alleviate symptoms of an uncomfortable vaginal prolapse (whereby the bladder, uterus and/or bowel protrudes into the vagina).
She had been on a waiting list for surgery when she sought the advice of a traditional Chinese doctor, who recommended vaginal steaming. She had been told to boil herbs in a pan with water, then place the pan on the rim of the toilet bowl and sit on it for 20 minutes, which she did on two occasions.
Soon after that, she showed up at the emergency room in Calgary with blood in her vaginal discharge and second-degree burns on her cervix and the lining of the vagina. Due to the prolapse, the burns were easily visible. She was treated with antibiotics as a precaution – though there was no sign of infection – and gauze on the affected area. Her surgery for the prolapse was delayed until she had healed from the burns.
The steaming treatment has previously been endorsed by Gweneth Paltrow.
“You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al," the GOOP owner said of the practice in 2015. "It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.”
OB/GYN Dr Jen Gunter had some advice at the time.
"My response: Don’t."
As well as being potentially dangerous, the treatment does not have the benefits espoused by Paltrow.
"We don’t know the effect of steam on the lower reproductive tract, but the lactobacilli strains that keep vaginas healthy are very finicky about their environment and raising the temperature with steam and whatever infrared nonsense Paltrow means is likely not beneficial and is potentially harmful," Dr Gunter said.
"Ms. Paltrow and the people who push V-steams also need a little anatomy lesson because unless that steam is under high pressure (like with ejaculation) it’s not getting from the vagina into the uterus. Air (whether hot or cold) does not magically wander from the vagina into the uterus. Heck, even water in the vagina doesn’t get sucked up by the uterus."
In short: You do not need to steam your vagina. It is not broccoli.