Disclaimer: All information on Leiamoon.com is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
What is vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming, yoni steaming, womb steaming, or “v-steaming” for short, is a time-honored self-care practice that has been passed down through generations of women in various cultures all over the world, likely for many thousands of years.1, 2, 3 It is now gaining interest in contemporary culture. It is a calming, rejuvenating, and meditative practice that fosters a deeper, more aware relationship between a woman and the most intimate, sensitive, life-giving parts of her body.
The process involves sitting or squatting over a pot of steaming water, typically infused with herbs. The moist heat brings warmth and encourages relaxation, while the steam also carries the essences of the herbs.
We are now experiencing a v-steam renaissance, as more and more women are discovering and sharing how they use vaginal steaming to improve their lives today.
Why vaginal steam?
Vaginal steaming is an extension of the basic concept of paying attention to and loving the vagina and womb space. It is an opportunity to open ourselves up (both physically and emotionally) and allow soothing and comfort into an otherwise tightly guarded space. The feeling of warm, aromatic steam on the vagina can be calming, exciting, cathartic, rejuvenating, or cleansing. We like to think of it as simple yet beautiful way to honor and care for the most vulnerable and sensitive part of our bodies.
Beyond this value as an elemental self-care ritual, there are a few other major reasons why more women are vaginal steaming every day. These include:
- Physical warmth: The thermo-therapeutic affect of bringing warmth to the vagina can feel comforting and relaxing.
- Postpartum care: In addition to being the subject of a recent innovative research study, this is the most well-documented historical reason for vaginal steaming.
- General cleansing: Many women report that vaginal steaming helps clear out excess matter from the uterus and vaginal canal.
- Preparing for pregnancy: Many women, herbal practitioners, and doctors are using and recommending vaginal steaming as part of an integrative approach to cleanse and prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
- Transitioning into menopause and beyond: V-steaming experts and individual women are reporting on the positive effects of vaginal steaming during this phase of womanhood.
We are sharing the stories and experiences of experts and v-steaming women around the globe so that others can take them into account and find their own reasons to steam.
What is the history of vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming has existed in many forms in many different cultures all around the world, passed down through maternal lineages for countless generations. While the exact age of the practice is unknown, experts have reported it could be anywhere from four thousand3 to fourteen thousand1 years old or more. The most well-documented historical accounts come from Eastern (specifically Korean and Indonesian) and traditional Maya cultures. Academic research has shown that steam bathing generally, including vaginal steaming, dates back to at least the late Pleistocene era in Northeast Asia. It then likely came to North America with the migration over the Bering Strait before spreading down through Central and South America.1
The practice is known as “j-wa hoon” in Korea (also commonly referenced as “chai-yok”), “bajos” in Central America,4 “Bakera” in Indonesia,2 and many other names in places like Sweden, Latvia, Turkey, and Ghana, to name a few. It has been reported that vaginal steaming is “as common in Belize and Central America as drinking peppermint tea.”5 There are also many reports of the practice in Africa, where it very likely could have originated, but these are less documented in scientific literature.
Who should vaginal steam?
Vaginal steaming is a practice for ALL women, as long as you don’t fall into one of the categories outlined in the “Who should NOT vaginal steam?” question below. It is an especially valuable practice if you identify with any of the following:
- You are looking for better self-care options for your vagina.
- You want to develop and maintain a positive, conscious relationship with your womb space and vagina.
- You’re trying to get pregnant.
- You feel disconnected from your femininity, your sexuality, or your creativity.
- You are approaching or going through menopause.
- You enjoy yoga and meditation.
- You just want to feel pleasurable sensations on your body.
- You are postpartum (you recently had a baby).
- You feel like your uterus might have excess menstrual lining that could benefit from cleansing.
Who should NOT vaginal steam?
You should NOT vaginal steam if:
- You are pregnant or think you are pregnant
- You are wearing an I.U.D. (intrauterine device)
- You are having your period (i.e. menstruating/bleeding)
- You are trying to get pregnant and have already ovulated but not yet had your period this month
- You have an open wound in your pelvic area
- You have genital piercings in (always remove any genital accoutrements before steaming)
What are the benefits of vaginal steaming?
The benefits of vaginal steaming have been reported from various sources, including but not limited to: 1) the Maya in central America; 2) Eastern herbal practitioners and studies of the practice in Southeast Asia; 3) information passed down from generation to generation of women who have carried the practice in their respective lineages all over the world; 4) real life case studies from vaginal steam practitioners who have facilitated steams for women; and 5) a fast-growing base of individual accounts of women who are reporting on their own personal experiences (see our Steam Stories page; a basic YouTube search for “vaginal steaming” or “yoni steaming” yields even more extensive results). Some of these include the following:
- General cleansing of the uterus after menstruation3, 4, 5, 6
- Pregnancy preparation (cleanse the uterus prior to conception)3, 4, 7, 8, 9
- Contribute to enjoyment of monthly cycles10, 11, 12
- Spiritual practice4
- Postpartum care/revitalize the womb after childbirth2, 13
- Bond with other women2
- Increase confidence and relaxation4, 62
- Assist with the transition into menopause and beyond3
- Meditation and increased mind-body connection4
- Emotional comfort
- Reconnecting with sexuality4
- Bring comfort and warmth to the pelvic floor region3, 12, 15
- More enjoyable sex19
- Refreshing and clean feeling and scent20
- Apply warmth to the perineum and lower digestive tract opening4, 25, 103
And these are just a few! As awareness of the practice continues to grow, more women are continuing to find their own reasons to steam every day. If you have have a steam story to share, let us know!
Do I need supervision for vaginal steaming?
If you are an adult, no. You can vaginal steam in your own home, on your own terms. However, the guidance of an experienced friend, vaginal steam facilitator, or guided audio meditation can certainly be helpful. We also provide a free animated guide with tips on how to steam at home using LEIAMOON or with traditional methods here. Additionally, many spas in metropolitan areas are offering vaginal steaming as a spa experience.
Is there an age range for vaginal steaming?
There is no “official” age range for vaginal steaming. As a rule and safety precaution, anyone under the age of 18 should only steam with adult supervision.
In some traditions, as a rite of passage, mothers or other elder female caretakers will offer a vaginal steam to young women after completing their first menstruation. There is no maximum age range, and many women continue to steam well into post-menopausal years.5 In the Indonesian bakera tradition, vaginal steams are also specifically prepared for elderly women.2
Does vaginal steaming “detox” or “cleanse” my vagina/uterus?
“Detox” is a controversial term, and many doctors agree that “the premise that the body needs treatments to remove toxins has no clear basis in human biology.”6 It is also common lingo among OBGYNs that the vagina is like a “self-cleaning oven” that does not generally need any special intervention to keep it clean. We completely agree! Every vagina is beautiful. And natural. And we would even say, HOLY–it’s the magic portal that every single one of us came through, right? Vaginal steaming is all about giving this space LOVE, REVERENCE, and RESPECT. So no, your vagina is not naturally “dirty” in any way.
That being said, one of the most commonly reported effects of vaginal steaming is the expulsion of some kind of matter, either soon after steaming or during the ensuing menstrual cycle, that had not previously come out of the uterus or vaginal canal. Often times this matter appears dark and coagulated; other times it might be brighter and more gooey. Either way, the reports are that material that might have been stuck before tends to come out.3 So this is where the term “cleansing” comes from.
If we “shift the idea of ‘detoxification’ to developing habits that support overall vitality and cultivate body functions… the benefits are scientifically present.”6 This is a great way to approach the practice of vaginal steaming: In short, love and treat your womb space right and your vagina and uterus will feel the difference!
If it’s such an old practice, how come I’d never heard of vaginal steaming before?
That’s a great question. We don’t know for sure, and there may be several reasons. But consider the following:
Traditional women’s knowledge may have been left out of the academic historic medical records because it wasn’t practiced by men. It is well documented that medicinal plants have played a huge role in feminine care in traditional ethnic groups around the world. However, most scholarly research around this type of medicinal plant use has focused on the knowledge of male traditional healers, often ignoring or missing the knowledge held by women.27, 102 Instead, the information carried and passed down by women has more often than not been relegated to the category of “old wives’ tales.” Because the scientific-medical establishment in the West has been a predominantly patriarchal institution, researchers erroneously assumed that any knowledge of scientific or medical value within the ethnic groups they were studying was held by men.102 This is part of the even larger-scale unfortunate practice of generally erasing the importance of women from academic history altogether.28
Furthermore, in many traditions it is likely that women also intentionally kept their knowledge around women’s health a secret among themselves in order to undermine male dominance and promote female empowerment within their communities.27
Given this information, it’s not surprising that even though vaginal steaming has been around for millennia, we haven’t heard of it in the West until just recently. Thankfully, the current wave of academia is making serious efforts are being made to bridge the gender gap in this kind of research.102 Viva la vulva.
What is a yoni?
“Yoni” is a Sanskrit word that means womb, uterus, vagina, vulva—it can mean any of these alone or all of them together, as an all-encompassing word for the entire womb space.29 It also represents the divine feminine power/goddess known as “Shakti.” The term “yoni” has been used a lot recently and is a buzzword in conscious women’s circles.
Many women are using the word “yoni” instead of “vagina” because it carries a reverence and respect for this part of the body that the word “vagina” does not inherently include. Did you know the original Latin meaning of the word “vagina” was “scabbard” or “sheath”30—aka a place for a man to put his sword?
We love the term yoni and fully support the efforts to shift language around the vagina in this direction. LOVE YOUR YONI! However, we also still use the term “vagina” because it is remains the most widely understood and accepted terminology when referring to this part of the body.
What does infrared light have to do with vaginal steaming?
A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which then warms your body. An infrared sauna uses light to create heat, which then warms your body directly without warming the air around you as much.31
Similarly, you can use infrared light to bring heat to your vagina–this can be done in place of steaming or in addition to it.
There is a growing body of evidence showcasing the benefits of infrared heat in general:
- Infrared saunas have a similar warming effect to traditional saunas, but at a lower temperatures, which makes infrared sauna more accessible to those who cannot tolerate the heat of a regular sauna.31 Applying this logic to your vagina, if you are extremely sensitive to the heat involved with traditional vaginal steaming, using infrared heat can be a way to reap the same benefits at lower temperatures.
- Infrared sauna can be relaxing and mood-elevating. It is “light” in terms of body load and provides a “comfortable and relaxing experience” in general.32
- Infrared/radiant heat technology is considered safe enough that it is used in hospital incubation systems across the world to keep infants warm!33
- Infrared heat has been shown to have beneficial effects on your skin, leaving it feeling smooth and calm.34
- Emerging trends in scientific literature show that infrared saunas can help your body cleanse and remove impurities.35, 36, 37
- No adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas.31
In summary, the benefits of infrared light/heat in general are well-studied, wide ranging, and safe!
This is why we offer a unique combination red light/near infrared light option with the LEIAMOON steam seat in addition to the steam heating mechanism.
Can I burn myself?
YES! Any activity involving boiling water and hot steam involves a risk of burning. So be careful! If you are making your own steam at home, of course make sure you don’t touch the boiling water, but we also recommend that you wave your hand over your steaming pot to gauge heat and appropriate squatting distance.
What can I expect after my first vaginal steam?
This varies from woman to woman, and depends on countless individual factors including your age, where you are in your cycle, why you are steaming, what kinds of periods you have been experiencing, if you are trying to get pregnant or if you are post-partum, what your personal emotional/psychological/spiritual state is, etc. Because every woman is different, results will always vary.
That being said, you can generally expect to feel immediately relaxed, more in tune with your womb space and vagina, rejuvenated, confident, and open to your feminine creativity. Intense emotional release during a steam session is also very common—you might laugh or cry, and that is great! Check out some of our Steam Stories to hear what other women are saying about the experience.
Physically, the most common general report after a first steam is that stagnant or built up matter tends to be released/cleansed during the next period. Subsequent periods then tend to be lighter as a result of this.
Are you guys doctors?
No. Leiamoon is an organization dedicated to empowering the womb and raising divine feminine consciousness on the planet. We share information from a network of experts (including many doctors) and relevant research, and develop products in line with this goal.
Are there any MDs, meaning medical doctors, that support vaginal steaming?
Yes, here is what some MD’s are saying:
Louisville-based family medicine/obstetrics specialist Dr. Rebecca Cohen, M.D, says:
I recommend vaginal steams in my practice regularly for a variety of reasons… during menopause and nursing… and [for] postpartum support….I believe that they are safe when used correctly.38
Dr. Lissa Rankin, M.D., NY Times best-selling author and TED talk alumnus, is “all for it,” with a heavy emphasis on each woman listening to and trusting her own body. She writes:
I’m a big fan of checking in with your gut (and your lady bits!) What does your body tell you? Is this for you? Do you believe this will benefit you? If not, skip it. But if the wisdom of your body speaks to you and says, “YES! This is the answer for me,” pay attention.
That little voice can be much wiser than any randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trial. And as long as you’re not putting your body in danger (I personally doubt you are), what’s the harm? Worst case scenario, you’re out $50 and the pores of your vulvar skin are squeaky clean and tightly closed. And if it works to help you meet your goals, more power to ya. Your body knows best. Trust it.39
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD has gone on record to say that vaginal steaming is “not insane” and that the benefits of bringing heat to vagina through steaming are very plausible.40
Dr. Siri Chand Kaur Khalsa, MD, believes that “embracing this ancient ritual may bring a renewed sense of empowerment to a woman’s reproductive energy.”6
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, M.D., practicing gynecologist and renowned author of V is for Vagina, notes that steam will bring extra warmth to the genital area and help with relaxation.41
Dr. Camilo Gonima, M.D., practicing OBGYN has stated on the record that “Herbal steams could have some relaxing effects and some beneficial superficial effects on the skin, just like a sauna or a facial steam would.” While he encourages caution to avoid burning, and notes that the vagina maintains a “mix of beneficial bacteria” on its own, Dr. Gonima says women can steam as often as they desire.42
Dr. Charles J. Ascher-Walsh, M.D., director of gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City believes the steam can have a softening quality and notes that “the herbs may even have an aromatherapy-like effect.”43
These are just a few examples of the growing community of MD’s who support vaginal steaming.
Is vaginal steaming the same as douching or a sitz bath?
No. Douching is the practice washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Most douches are sold in stores as prepackaged mixes that usually come in a bottle or bag. You then squirt this mixture upward through a tube or nozzle into your vagina and wait for it to come back out.
Vaginal steaming is gentle, non-invasive, and done for entirely different reasons than douching.
Most doctors recommend against douching but advocate for sitz baths.44, 45 While vaginal steaming is still a completely separate practice, it has more in common with a sitz bath than douching. As doula and reproductive women’s health advocate Zoë Etkin explains that they are both “gentle [and] external, but the warming properties have a lot of benefits.”46
On the other hand, douching actually forces a stream of water, often mixed with chemicals, up in to the vaginal canal.
Can vaginal steaming help me get pregnant?
It is no secret that stress affects your reproductive system! This can include making your period irregular/painful, exacerbating other PMS symptoms, interfering with your sex drive, increasing vaginal discharge and/or dryness during sex, causing yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, and directly affecting your ovulation.47 Vaginal steaming is a truly calming, meditative experience and an opportunity to protect yourself from the environmental stressors that create these negative effects. In this regard alone, the benefits are very real! Experts agree that when you’re trying to conceive, the less stress, the better!8, 48, 49
Steaming also has the added benefit of connecting your conscious mind with your womb space, which beautifully complements the Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs) for for conceiving (and pregnancy prevention). These are widely recognized ways of tracking your menstrual cycle to pinpoint when you will be the most fertile.50, 51 Science has shown FAMs to be remarkably effective for couples trying to conceive52, and you can read a great guide on how to do it here.
Furthermore, many doctors believe that steaming can act as a “uterine lavage” that cleanses the uterus to prepare for egg implantation.3, 5, 53 Vaginal steaming authority Dr. Rosita Arvigo includes steaming as the second part of a two-step modality for preparing for pregnancy, and believes it is particularly useful once a woman’s uterus is properly positioned.3 Check out our full interview with Dr. Marc Sklar here for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.
Additionally, by way of diluting and softening the cervical tissue, steaming also “helps to create a lubricated path” for semen to travel through the cervix.”53
In summary, experts believe that the relaxation benefits, increased fertility awareness, and the warming, cleansing, and softening effects of vaginal steaming can all play a role in preparing for an optimal and healthy pregnancy.
Can steam really permeate the cervix and go up into the uterus?
Most vaginal steaming experts believe the answer is yes! In a recent interview with Leiamoon, San Diego-based acupuncturist and fertility expert Dr. Marc Sklar notes that the steam “definitely hits the external vaginal tissue” and “would easily get into the vaginal canal, and possibly even the cervix,” but how far up it goes is difficult to know and depends how open the cervix is. This may vary based on where a woman is during her menstrual cycle and other factors.
Dr. Charles J. Ascher-Walsh, M.D., director of gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City states, “It’s reasonable to think that steam could soften the cervix and cervical mucus to make fertility-related procedures easier… and the herbs may even have an aromatherapy-like effect.”43
Katherine Thurer, M.D. and gynecologist, concurs: “Healthy vaginal tissue is used as an effective vehicle for the administration of medications like antibiotics, antifungal creams, and hormones, so I suspect the herbs in the steam can be easily absorbed this way, too.”43 Isa Herrera, author of Ending Female Pain and clinical director of Manhattan’s Renew Physical Therapy Healing Center elaborates further: “’The steam thins the mucus [of the cervix], in much the same way that it clears a… nasal passage…’” Furthermore, “vaginal tissue is epithelial and mucosal… muscular and stretchy, but also absorbent and porous, like skin.”43
While we may not know the exact degree to which the steam itself “goes in,” experts agree that heat from the steam itself has it’s own benefits. 3, 38, 40, 43, 56
What is the point of the herbs?
Vaginal steaming with herbs can have both thermo-therapeutic and aroma-therapeutic qualities.2, 58 Aromatherapy and herbal care around childbirth have a long history, and this is one of the specific reasons why herbs have been used historically in vaginal steam baths.2 The smell of herbs alone can be very enjoyable and encourage relaxation! In fact, many practitioners and women claim that being able to “taste” the herbs on their tongue is an integral part of the steam session.41
Beyond the aromatic effects, the steam carries the essential oils of the herbs used, and each of these has its own properties. To learn more about the herbs in LEIAMOON’s signature premium steam blend, check out our herbs page.
Can I use other herbs?
Yes, just make sure you do your research before selecting your herbs! LEIAMOON currently offers an amazing “all-around” blend for vaginal steaming, but the possibilities for different herb combinations are virtually endless. Check out our herbs page for detailed descriptions of the herbs used in our blend and stay tuned for future offerings of different blends.
Different regional traditions also use different local herbs for steaming, and different herbs have different purposes. Consult with your local herbalist or expert practitioner to learn more or find a custom blend that is right for you. If you are going to source your own herbs, make sure they are organic, and ideally wild-crafted and solar dried for maximum benefit.
Can I steam with essential oils instead of herbs?
The consensus among vaginal steaming experts is no, you should not steam with essential oils because they are too strong and may burn your vulva tissue.60, 61, 62 While we have found one instance of a physician recommending essential oil use, it was only recommended to use a few drops of a “very gentle oil.” Our recommendation is to stick to the herbs!
Can I steam without herbs?
Sure, but it’s nowhere near as nice! If you steam with water alone you will still get the effects of the moist heat. However, the essences of the herbs you use can add so much to the experience, not only in terms of their specific properties, but also in terms of relaxation and their aromas.
Should I steam at home or in a spa?
Both are viable options depending on your preferences and needs. Steaming at home is private, affordable, intimate, and gives you complete control over your own experience. Steaming at a spa can be luxurious and pampering! However, it costs more, puts you at the discretion of the spa practitioner, is less private, and can come with sanitation risks.63 These factors vary based on the particulars of each spa, including their equipment, the training of their employees, and maintenance of their facilities. Be sure to thoroughly research any spa before going in for a vaginal steam. If you steam at home: use caution, don’t burn yourself, and make sure that you are not contraindicated for steaming—see “Who should NOT vaginal steam?” above.
Can I steam when I am pregnant?
NO, do not steam when you are pregnant.
“Vagina” is technically the name for the internal canal and vulva and labia are the skin on the outside. Why don’t you call it “vulva steaming” or “labia steaming?”
You are right, and this is a great question! The entire outer/external part of the female genitalia is called the vulva. The vulva encompasses both the outer and inner “lips” of skin (labia majora and labia minora) that open up to the vestibule that surrounds the vaginal entrance (check out a great vulvar anatomy guide here).
In the strictest medical sense, the vagina itself is the internal canal. However, the majority of women, and most people in general, still refer colloquially to the entire area as the vagina. Because part of our mission is to make vaginal steaming easily accessible to all women, Leiamoon still uses the term “vagina.” We fully support refinement, education, and working towards more conscious language around the womb space; we’re just starting from the place of widest understanding.
Will vaginal steaming harm the good bacteria and/or natural pH balance in my vagina?
Many experts have rightfully asserted that the vagina is a self-maintaining organ that generally does not need outside agents interfering with its cleaning process. We completely agree! But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it the nourishing, gentle, TLC that vaginal steaming provides.
We discussed this question in depth in our interview with renowned women’s health coach and functional nutritionist Nicole Jardim, using this quote from her blog as a starting point:
With all the torture we inflict on our vaginas these days – waxing, lasering, chemical-laden douches, synthetic tampons and pads, antibiotics, hormonal birth control, vaginal rejuvenation surgery, bleaching, spermicides…I could go on and on – I’m frankly shocked at the recent backlash in the media about vaginal steaming.
It’s mind-blowing to me that everything I listed above is considered completely normal and okay but sitting over a bowl of hot water and herbs for 30 minutes is going to ruin our health. I mean seriously?74
We’ve found the following points to be particularly noteworthy in answering this question:
Doing something in moderation is not the same as overdoing it. In our interview with fertility expert Marc Sklar, he stresses that after years of prescribing vaginal steams for his clients, disrupting the vaginal biome was the least of his concerns, and that he has “never seen it cause yeast infections” or “any negative effects in the vaginal area.” He does, however, recommend against over-doing it:
I think if someone does this excessively, and does this daily, for instance…if you’re influencing the environment regularly and not allowing the body to recover from that… then yes, I do think it can have adverse effects. I have yet to see anyone do anything like that and I haven’t seen anybody have any negative side effects from [steaming in general]. But you know in terms of changing microbiome… If you do it once a month, twice a month, maybe even three times a month spaced out, then I don’t think it will have that sort of effect, and I’ve never seen that.
The vaginal microbiome contains a wide variety of both “good” and “bad” bacteria, and everyone’s is different! What is considered “healthy” in the vagina completely varies from woman to woman. Moreover, the mix of bacteria in many healthy women’s vaginal biomes can change significantly over short periods of time; in others it remains more constant. Bacteria vary so much among individuals that there is simply no such thing as a “normal” vaginal microbiome.75 More recent research reveals even more complexity in the nuances of what makes a healthy vaginal biome:
Lactobacillus bacteria—long thought to keep vaginas healthy—are not created equal. For some researchers, L. crispatus is emerging as the vagina’s superhero. It not only pumps out the best mix of two different types of lactic acid to keep the vagina inhospitable to other bugs, but it also fortifies a woman’s vaginal mucus to trap and keep at bay HIV and other pathogens. To confuse matters further, some of the vaginal villains deemed the culprits in BV, Gardnerella, Prevotella, and Atopobium, have been found in the vaginas of healthy women.76
The vagina contains a mix of good and bad bacteria. This mix is always in flux, varies from woman to woman, and there is no set definition of what good and bad bacteria is. As Jennifer Allsworth Ph.D., epidemiologist and research specialist in OBGYN and women’s health, sums up: With respect to the vaginal microbiome, “We don’t even really know what ‘healthy’ is.”76
Women do things every day that disrupt the bacterial balance of their vagina. Many of these things are 1) promoted by societal and medical establishments despite their inherent risks, and 2) significantly more invasive than a gentle vaginal steam. Some of these include:
- “Normal intrusions to the vaginal environment” such as tampons, semen, and even menstruation. Yes, semen causes the pH of your vagina to rise, and both semen and menstruation can potentially reduce good bacteria while allowing space for other harmful bacteria to flourish.76
- Sitting in a hot tub or even a swimming pool.77
- Using scented soap or deodorants in the vaginal area.78
- Sex, with anyone (especially a new person or with multiple partners). Anytime you insert another person’s body part into your body, you will almost inevitably disrupt the microbiome of your vagina.76
- Antibiotics. They kill off not only the bad bacteria that cause disease, but also the good bacteria you need to maintain a healthy vaginal pH.79
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs). Numerous studies have shown IUD use increases the risk of bacterial vaginosis and pelvic inflammatory disease.80, 81, 82, 83 Yet millions of women in the U.S. use IUDs and their use is on the rise.
- Hormonal birth control. Going on the pill can also affect your vaginal microbiome.84
- All kinds of invasive vaginal rejuvenation procedures involving lasers, surgeries, radio frequency technology and high-focused ultrasounds.85
- Stress, medications, and hormonal changes. All of these factors can influence the balance of vaginal bacteria.86
In short, all kinds of things get put into the vagina and can and do affect the vaginal biome, but most vaginas are healthy most of the time.
Women have a right to choose what to do with their own bodies and vaginas. If you are going to vaginal steam, be conscious about your practice and don’t overdo it. If you are concerned or believe that you have an unhealthy vaginal biome for any reason, consult your doctor for advice. Always be an empowered, informed decision-maker in charge of your own body!
Can I vaginal steam during or after menopause?
Most vaginal steaming experts believe this is one of the best times for a woman to steam. Case studies and reports from peri-menopausal and menopausal women have shown that steaming can effectively moisturize, cleanse excess cervical fluid, increase libido, and encourage deeper sleep, among other benefits. 3, 4, 5, 38, 88, 89
Dr. Rosita Arvigo believes vaginal steaming is an “excellent technique to continue for the rest of our lives in order to prevent pathologies after menopause,” and further elaborates that even months or years after the last menstrual cycle, steaming can cleanse the uterus of stagnant matter:
I had that experience myself. I had not been menstruating; I was postmenopausal and still doing vaginal steams, and for three cycles in a row I was still passing fluid from my uterus. So we know that if that stays inside it can only harden and then indurate right into the wall of the uterus. The uterus should be clean–clean when it stops menstruating, and the only way to ensure that is to do the vaginal steams. Most women who are menopausal or postmenopausal may not have menstruated for a year or two; when they try the vaginal steam they’re absolutely shocked to see that there were fluids left inside the uterus.3
What about postpartum vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming after childbirth is possibly the oldest reason for the practice on record!2 In an extensive study conducted for the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in the early 2000s, researchers examined the traditional herbal vaginal steaming practice known as Bakera in Indonesia. In Bakera, vaginal steaming is used by women to “to feel fresh, clean and at ease” after childbirth. With the caveats of general safety precautions and some specific contraindications, the study concluded the practice is an “effective and safe method for recuperation after childbirth.”2
Modern advocates of post-partum steams believe that steaming helps to cleanse leftover material from the uterus after the childbirth and bring warmth into the uterus and pelvic floor.3
When exactly the vaginal steam is applied post-childbirth varies from culture to culture. Recommendations range anywhere from one hour to nine days after childbirth, and some cultures even deliver babies in a “steam house” structure designated for vaginal steaming.3 In the bakera practice, steaming regimens typically begin within 3-14 days after childbirth, continuing for many weeks, anywhere from twice per month up to twice per day.2
Steaming for postpartum care is also the subject of a cutting-edge research study happening in 2019.87
How long should I steam for?
This depends on so many different factors. Every woman has a different body, different cycle, and different reasons for steaming.
First and foremost, listen to your body! Vaginal steaming feels really good and really relaxing when done correctly. So only steam as long as you feel comfortable for.
Typical steam sessions last anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes, but you can steam for as short a time as you like. Most traditions and practitioners do not recommend going longer than 35 minutes at a time. You may also want to build up your comfort level, starting with a shorter session and gradually increasing your steaming time with subsequent sessions.
The bottom line is be gentle with yourself. There is no rush—just ease in to it and listen to your body.
How often should I steam?
This depends on so many different factors. Every woman has a different body, different cycle, and different reasons for steaming.
If you feel you have a generally healthy cycle and just want to give steaming a try, you might start just once per month (after your period), or twice per month (once before your period and once after). We’ve also seen recommendations that run the gamut from daily,2 to weekly,56 to three times per month, to monthly, etc.,99 depending on the reasons for steaming and the condition of each woman. If you’re trying to decide how often to steam, be sure to do your own research!
Should I consult a doctor before vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming is a simple, gentle, and beautiful self-care practice that any adult woman can enjoy the benefits of–as long as you are not in the “Who should NOT steam?” category above. If you are healthy and of sound mind and body, you are definitely capable of deciding on your own if steaming feels right for you!
However, we do not recommend vaginal steaming as an alternative to seeking qualified care for any type of medical condition! If this is the case for you, definitely consult your doctor or otherwise qualified health professional for advice.
When during my monthly cycle should I steam?
How often and when you steam will depend on a number of factors, including your purpose for steaming, how heavy your flow is, how many times you’ve steamed before, and how you are feeling. As a general rule, do not steam during menstruation (when you are on your period). If you are not trying to get pregnant and are definitely not pregnant, you can steam just about any time during your monthly cycle as long as it is not during your period.
Can vaginal steaming lead to better sex?
A lot of women are saying YES! The simple increase in warmth can stimulate your sex drive, and just the experience of vaginal steaming can be a pleasurable turn-on. Many women have reported better sex, less painful sex, and increased libido as a direct result of vaginal steaming.19, 38 Any practice that puts you more in touch with your vagina is going to increase your awareness of and sensitivity in the region. Tuning in to your yoni through vaginal steaming is also a gateway to sacred sexuality, which can lead you (and your partner) to new heights of cosmic orgasmic pleasure.
How does vaginal steaming feel?
The feeling of aromatic steam gently swirling up to caress your vaginal tissue can be many things, both physical and emotional—warming, soothing, opening, exciting, rejuvenating, cleansing, meditative, cathartic…. Every steam is an opportunity to explore and improve your relationship with the most intimate parts of yourself, and every feeling you have during a vaginal steam is valid. Many women describe a physical “softening” feeling of the vagina. Vaginal steaming is a very sensual, personal, and intimate experience. Give it a try and let us know how you would describe it.
You cite Dr. Rosita Arvigo a lot—who is that?
Dr. Rosita Arvigo is one of the world’s foremost authorities on vaginal steaming, specifically of the traditional Maya variety. She is a doctor of naprapathy (a holistic form of medicine derived from osteopathy and chiropractic medicine that focuses on connective tissue disorders”100, 101), a world-renowned author and ethnobotanist, the founder of the Arvigo Institute, which trains practitioners in her specialized Arvigo Abdominal Therapy, a contributor and founding member of the Belize Ethnobotany Project (commissioned by the New York Botanical Garden and sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute), and an ardent advocate of preserving and sharing with the world the time-tested, plant-based healing modalities of traditional cultures. She has treated thousands of women and her therapy technique has practitioners in over twenty countries globally as of the time of this writing. Among a host of other lifetime achievements, she is a featured speaker around the world on herbal healing, and recipient of the prestigious New York Wings Worldquest Award for Extraordinary Women in Science and Exploration.
Dr. Arvigo apprenticed under Don Elijio Panti, one of the last and very famous traditional Maya healers in Belize. Elijio’s extensive knowledge and collection of unique plant specimens from this region were of great value for AIDS and cancer research, to the extent that his field work even garnered him co-authorship status in scientific papers published for the studies. He lived to age 103, and prior to his death he was honored with many distinguished awards for his contributions to this research. His life and work was memorialized in a New York Times article.
Dr. Arvigo studied under Elijio for the last decade of his life, intently learning and cataloguing his knowledge and helping him treat the thousands of patients that came to his clinic in San Antonio, Belize. Vaginal steaming was one of the specific, time-honored Maya techniques that Arvigo learned about from her studies with Don Elijio. In the Maya tradition, vaginal steams were prescribed for women with the same frequency as “drinking peppermint tea.”
We are very grateful to Dr. Arvigo for her pioneering and prolific efforts to usher the sacred and traditional practice of vaginal steaming into the modern world.
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