Ladies, there is a new fad in town -- vaginal steaming. But watch out, for it can be harmful.
It involves women sitting on a pot and exposing their genitalia to steamed concoctions. However, repeated exposure, experts warn, could lead to burns, irritation and, in some cases, urinary tract infections.
Vaginal steaming is dangerous and it can harm you, gynaecologists are now warning. Dr Aggrey Akula, a gynaecologist based in western Kenya, and Dr Nelly Bosire, an obstetrician and gynaecologist (ob-gyn), are cautioning that the vaginal environment is delicate and anything that goes up there should be verified.
'Not as interesting'
"The vaginal environment is not sterilised. Bacteria and yeasts depend on the acidic-based balance to survive. The moment we change this by using herbs and steam, we are changing its chemical composition and inviting problems," Dr Bosire says.
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She adds: "This is not as forward-thinking and interesting as women would want to make it look. Why would you harm yourself yet it has no benefit, health-wise."
Dr Akula advises that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ that functions just fine by cleaning itself without the need for steaming.
"If the water is too hot, you could burn your vaginal walls because the vagina is made up of very delicate tissue. Another thing is, you could upset the PH balance of your vagina, bringing about yeast infections and UTIs, as well as irritation -- the same things that you're trying to keep off in the first place with vaginal steaming," Dr Akula said. He adds: "Using steam can also disrupt the normal environment of the vagina."
Vaginal steaming involves squatting over a pot of herbs and steaming hot liquid in order to "cleanse" the vagina. This has seen a growth in its popularity, including here in Kenya.
The treatment, and others for intimate areas including vulva facials, are now available in some salons and spas in the country. People are advertising the steaming herbs all over social media.
Spas and salons advertising "v-steaming" claims the practice, which is sometimes called Yoni steaming, acts to "detox" the vagina and helps tighten the vaginal walls.
"This is dangerous. In the hot water, they add fresh natural herbs including basil, rosemary or scented udi, they squat or sit on an open chair over the basin, covering your legs with a blanket and letting the vagina steam for 30 to 40 minutes then taking a bath after," Dr Bosire said.
This, Dr Akula warns, causes second-degree burns on the lining of the cervix and vagina.
Some women believe that steaming reduces cramps and gets rid of discharge, cleanses the uterus and increases their energy, reduces the frequency of UTIs and yeast infections, tightens the vagina and increases blood flow. However, experts say there is no scientific evidence to support the touted health benefits.
According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, a 62-year-old Canadian woman sustained serious injuries after trying the treatment.
The patient reportedly attempted it as a cure for vagina prolapse. Prior to the incident, a doctor recommended that she gets surgery. But the woman, according to the study, is said to have followed advice from a traditional Chinese doctor who told her that inducing hot steam into her vagina would help fix her condition.
Dr Vanessa Mackay, a consultant and spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says that it is a "myth" that the vagina requires extensive cleaning or treatment. She recommends using plain, non-perfumed soaps on the external vulva area only.
"The vagina contains good bacteria, which are there to protect it," she said in a statement.
"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. It could also burn the delicate skin around the vagina (the vulva)."
"If your vagina is healthy, you really do not need to steam it. Ensure to keep your feminine hygiene and pH level at optimal levels at all times so as not to upset the good and bad bacteria in the vagina and, that way, you will have a healthy vagina," Dr Akula advises.