Is vaginal steaming safe? Our OB-GYN weighs in.

Steam rising out of bowl

Celebrity health and wellness trends have become fodder for the general public’s search for the latest Hollywood beauty secrets. However, a self-care practice recently shared on Instagram by supermodel and social media maven Chrissy Teigen has raised some eyebrows in the medical community.

Teigen shared a photo of herself experimenting with a vaginal steaming treatment. “Face mask / heat pad / vagina steam no I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt right? *vagina dissolves*,” she wrote.

Teigen isn’t the first public figure to introduce V-steaming to fans. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow celebrated the treatment on her lifestyle blog, “Goop” back in 2015.

“Vaginal steaming is not a new practice,” Megan Sneed, MD, a board-certified urogynecologist and board-certified OB-GYN at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, told HCA Healthcare Today, via e-mail. “There are records of this practice for hundreds of years in Mayan and Central American culture. The intention of the process is to “cleanse and revitalize” the uterus and vagina.”

While vaginal steaming has been around for ages, the Kansas City-based physician cautions our readers: “don’t try this at home.”

What is vaginal steaming anyway?

Vaginal steaming, also known as V-steaming or yoni steaming, is an alternative health treatment where a woman squats or sits over steaming water. Sometimes the water contains herbs such as mugwort, rosemary, wormwood and basil. The warmth of the steam is supposed to soften and open the pores of the vaginal and vulvar skin so that the herbs can be absorbed into the skin and uterus and impart medicinal affects.

What are the purported benefits?

Vaginal steaming has been used for many purposes but is typically used to alleviate unwanted symptoms associated with periods such as bloating, exhaustion, cramps, heavy menstrual flow and irregular periods. It has also been used to increase fertility, help alleviate symptoms of menopause and to promote healing after childbirth. (It was reported that Chrissy Teigen had welcomed her second child one month prior to trying vaginal steaming.)

Vaginal steaming has also been used to treat even stress, depression, hemorrhoids, fatigue and headaches.

Does it really work?

There is little chance herbal steam would penetrate vaginal tissues, let alone reach the uterus or regulate hormones and improve fertility. One benefit may be that the moist heat from the steam increases blood flow to the vaginal area, though this isn’t well-studied.

Is it safe?

There is no medical evidence to suggest vaginal steaming is beneficial in any way, and it potentially could be harmful for the following reasons:

1. Adding steam or heat to the vagina may provide the perfect environment for bacteria that cause yeast or other vaginal infections to thrive.
2. Vaginal skin is delicate, sensitive, and easily traumatized. Steam may cause vaginal burns or scalding.
3. Finally, it’s unknown how vaginal steam could impact an individual or, if pregnant, a woman’s developing baby. Some herbs may cause miscarriage. No one should use steam or herbs on their vagina if they’re expecting.

Should I try it?

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, well-equipped to adjust to:
• hormonal changes
• changes with pregnancy
• aging and,
• the menstrual cycle.

The vagina is also perfectly capable of maintaining the proper balance of bacteria to stay healthy. It does not:
• regulate your period
• cause one to have headaches
• dictate whether your fibroids will grow, or,
• determine whether one will have the dreaded symptoms of menopause.

In short, the vagina is perfect the way it is. The practice of vaginal steaming does nothing more than propagate negative female self-image or the idea that the vagina, if not actively managed, is a dirty or disgusting place. None of which is true. Celebrate beauty, Celebrate YOU!

Woman wearing white lab coat.

Dr. Megan Sneed specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, an HCA Healthcare affiliate located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

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