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ASK THE EXPERTS
Certified Women’s Health Coach/ Menstrual Health Expert
“Fixing” Your Period and Unpacking the Stigma Around Vaginal Steaming
Jessica: [00:00:02] Hi everyone! I'm Jessica, co-founder of Leiamoon, which is a group dedicated to spreading awareness about positive menstruation mindsets and essential feminine self-care practices--namely vaginal steaming, as you learned from last time. We're working to share as much information as possible about how we can all better know our bodies and ourselves and take best care of them on our own terms. Today I am extremely excited to be interviewing women's health expert Nicole Jardim a.k.a. the "Period Fixer." Nicole's mission is to help women reclaim their health and feminine vitality naturally. She is a certified women's health and functional nutrition coach and host of the amazingly smart podcast, the Period Party, which I love--thank you. Hey Nicole, hi! I'm so excited that you're here with us. I have lot of questions [about things] that you're an expert in. But first I thought we should talk a bit about your story as the "Period Girl,” how you came to take on this superheroine title, and how you got into this work.
Nicole: [00:01:10] Yes. Well first of all, Jessica, thank you so much for having me. I love doing interviews like this and I really, especially love to just share this information with potential new audiences, because women everywhere need to be educated about how their bodies and their reproductive organs function. I got into this work about eight years ago now, and initially I just wanted to study to be a health coach. I had no idea what I was going to do or what I was going to focus on. I had had horrific period problems when I was a teenager and into my early to mid 20s. My period started to do something weird probably around age 14-15, which is pretty normal--it happens, especially as you're progressing through puberty. But at that point I remember experiencing really heavy periods that were super painful--again, quite common. And I always say this: It's… statistically normal but not biologically normal. And everyone else was kind of experiencing these problems so I thought, "Okay, this is just normal." And then a couple years later it started coming like every three or four months. And I had no idea what that meant. And finally my mom was like, "OK, I think we should go to the doctor and see what's going on." I remember [the doctor] listening to what I was saying about it and immediately I could kind of see her brain working and she was just like, "OK, well I'm going to just prescribe the birth control pill for you." And she pulled out a prescription pad and wrote a prescription for it. I was psyched because I thought I had found my silver bullet for my period problems. And in fact I felt like I almost did in a way, because my period got lighter; it stopped being so painful; it came consistently every single month; so I had all of these boxes checked off [and I thought] I was good to go.
[00:03:08] I was on it for about five years and eventually I started to have all of these other issues. In fact, I recently thought back to when they really started and it was actually--I'm pretty sure I got Epstein Barr Virus, which is the virus that causes mono, in college. I was sick for about 2-3 weeks, and you know with mono you just can't get out of bed, and you're exhausted--all that stuff! And that was really sort of a turning point.... I was starting to have some issues with my hormones while on the pill and my gut health and things like that. That was really I think the precipice, and I fell right over it. And then I really started to have issues being on the pill. So, you know--digestive problems, and my hair was falling out, and I developed this melasma all over my face, and... I was chronically sick. I mean I just felt--I just didn't feel well. I had these chronic UTIs; I had yeast infections. It was just a disaster. So fast forward a couple of months, I'm finally able to see an acupuncturist, and he was the person who really shifted my perspective on my health. That was a complete turning point for me in this journey. Then fast forward a few years later: I decided I really wanted to do this work. But I didn't know how to do it aside from just becoming a doctor, which obviously was not feasible for me--I studied film production. I was far, far away from having any prerequisites, so in the end I studied to be a health coach and then I really decided that I wanted to focus on women's health…if I could help one woman not go through what I went through then [that would be great].
[00:04:45] I did a lot of training, in addition to the health coach certification, with Dr. Sara Gottfried, the Integrated Women's Health Institute, and Chris Kresser of the Kresser Institute--so there was a lot of women's health/functional nutrition training. And here I am today!
Jessica: [00:05:02] So what was it that the acupuncturist you met with had you change?
Nicole: [00:05:06] Oh my gosh. This man had me change everything. He was a traditional Chinese acupuncturist. And you know, he was probably in his 60s or 70s-- he'd come from China with, like, nothing to his name and had built this thriving acupuncture practice. So he was super traditional in so many ways. And one of the first things he said to me was, "I think the birth control pill might have something to do with your symptoms." Meanwhile I had seen probably 12,13.... 15 doctors (I mean, who's counting?!). And nobody had said anything about that. Nobody had ever said, "Oh yeah I think the birth control pill could be causing your digestive problems, or your chronic infections, or your hair loss, or your skin problems...." I mean I could go on. And finally, I had really horrible joint pain too so I'd seen a rheumatologist. And again, nobody had made the connection. So that was his first statement to me really and I just thought, "OK well I'll go off this thing," which was terrifying in and of itself, and we can definitely get to that...
[00:06:04] But he also had me, over time, change my diet. I started to shop at Whole Foods--I had never done that before. And I started to [do] exercise that was more in sync with my cycle vs. just like hard core running five miles every single day, which was kind of what I was doing. So yeah I like all of these really small kind of obvious changes. I had no clue about my early twenties and that was really I felt like the catalyst that helped propel me into better health.
Jessica: [00:06:33] Wow. So, talking about about periods in general, it's kind of become accepted as normal to have these types of PMS symptoms like severe cramping and irregular bleeding. We all just happened to have these unique cycles and accept that truth. I was curious from the work that you're doing and from your own personal experience: Are these things to be accepted as just being normal or healthy? Is there such thing as an ideal period? Is it achievable for all women?
Nicole: [00:07:06] Oh yes. So many good questions. So I'd say the first thing is that we know our bodies better than anyone else does. We've been told otherwise. But we really do. Inherently, we do. And, I think that that's the thing that I try to reiterate for women, is that you have a divine wisdom and your body does. And you are tapped into that, whether you believe it or not! And I think that from such a young age we're kind of discouraged from tapping into that and really tuning into that inner voice that's telling us that there's something wrong or that things are OK or not or whatever. And so I feel really strongly that we need to tapping into that. And by the time we get to adulthood, I think that it's almost like a whisper, to be honest, because we've been told for so long to either ignore our body or ignore the symptoms. We've been told to distrust our bodies. We've been--our periods have been medicated away in many instances. We've been given medications or have been suggested surgeries that are going to again move us further away from that natural intuition. And so my words for women around this is that you have to start paying attention to these symptoms. Our bodies don't speak English or the language that we speak. They speak in their own language and it's basically a language of signs and symptoms. And so if we can put our detective hats on it and start to really take a magnifying glass to what our bodies are doing on a monthly basis, we will get so many answers. Far more than we may get if we--obviously, if you go to the doctor and you have like something severe you want to deal with that--but like, far more than you would get if you just went the doctor and they're telling you, "Well you have heavy painful periods, you should go on the pill" or, "You have no period you should go on the pill," or "you have irregular periods, you should be on the pill." I mean that's basically the standard procedure now for a whole host of menstrual problems. So ultimately, like I said before, I think that statistically speaking, all of these issues that we see all the time are considered normal but biologically they're not.
[00:09:28] And…I think we've been ignoring them for far too long and I think women are really collectively waking up to the fact that their bodies are not operating the way they were meant to. I just don't buy into the fact that we were all just born to have painful periods or heavy periods or irregular periods or what have you. I don't believe that we were designed to function that way. And I don't believe that we were designed to have to be on some sort of medication or have medical intervention in order for our bodies to work optimally. So that's really what I start with women. I really try to help them understand that the way that we've been doing things, the status quo, is just it's not working it's this one size fits all approach. And I think women's unique biology--you know the way our bodies work individually, has been completely taken out of the equation, which is kind of crazy because we have unique circumstances, we have different genetics, we have different diets and lifestyles and stress loads. I mean the list goes on. So we have to start now to look at ourselves individually and rather than spot-treating symptoms that we've been doing for so long. Hopefully that answered all of that!
Jessica: [00:10:47] I agree. These these period symptoms, or “P.M.S. syndrome” as we've been calling it. It's more of a language to be learned and interpreted so that we know which shifts we can make to help ourselves and our cycles feel more comfortable each month. So it's almost like a way our body is trying to communicate with us to tell us like "Hey, this isn't working for me." But yeah, we're definitely way oversold on medications to kind of mask that voice and make it more distanced. And you're right it's kind of more like a surface layer or veil that kind of keeps us from really being in touch with what it is that our bodies need to feel good.
Nicole.: [00:11:29] Yeah, I couldn't agree more.
Jessica: [00:11:36] How do women know what their bodies are trying to tell them? I mean it is intuition but when you get a menstrual cramp--like, what is that!? What is happening biologically?
Nicole: [00:11:45] Yeah I love that [question] because it's true. When you're told all of this: "OK. You have to pay attention to signs and symptoms..." Women usually look at me very quizzically and they say something along the lines of, "What does that actually mean?" So I think what we want to be looking at is, what's the baseline? What's the "norm?" I don't really like the word normal so much, but it's helpful for these purposes. And so you want to know what your unique baseline is, what the typical period is, what typical symptoms are... And so when it comes to a menstrual cycle, my determination of what the norm is--just based on my own work--is a cycle anywhere between three and seven days. Somewhere around there… mostly 4-5 days is what I'm really looking for a in an actual period. And the length of your menstrual cycle--as in like how long your entire monthly cycle is--should range between 25 and 35 days.
[00:12:43] And I don't think there should be a lot of fluctuation in-between that-- as in you know one month you might have 25 days and then the next month it might be 35 and then the next month you go back to 26, say…. That, to me, is a lot of fluctuation. I prefer to see like a one to two day fluctuation, so you have a 25-day cycle, next month a 27-day cycle, then you go back to a 26-day cycle. Something Like that. Otherwise it could be a sign that your body is responding to stressors--whether that's not the right food or psychological stressors in a way that is causing these big fluctuations, which you don't really want. And so when it comes to your period I'm always saying that there should be no spotting leading up to your period. A lot of women are told that spotting is completely fine--that you can spot for five or six days before your period and it's totally normal. I've had so many clients tell me that that their doctors have said that... and then eventually they can't get pregnant or something like that. So to me spotting before your period is a sign of potentially low progesterone in most cases because progesterone holds your uterine lining in place. And if there's not enough progesterone… bits of your lining are going to essentially break off and that's what causes this spotting. So we don't really want any spotting I'd say like maybe one, maybe two days before, not a huge deal. Don't worry about it. And then for your period itself, it really should start as a fresh red color. There really shouldn't be a lot of that dark, brown, rusty-looking blood.
[00:14:21] That's really just a sign that there's older blood that's being released from the previous cycle. It also could be a sign that your blood is moving slowly, and blood that's moving slowly oxidizes and turns that rusty color. But I do find that it's more that it's older blood…. The other thing that I think is important to note too is that when it comes to period pain, I say this--and I think again we have to check in with ourselves and what this actually means--but I say, "if it's disrupting your life--as in, you can't leave your bed, or you have to skip work, or you have to leave work or school early, or it's painful to the point where you can't think straight, or you need to take a lot of medication like Advil or Midol or something like that...then I think you've got to look deeper." Otherwise, if it's just cramping on day one for instance, and you just go about your day--maybe use a hot water bottle--you know, that isn't a big deal. It's something to definitely look at because to me that's potentially a sign of an inflammatory response happening in the body--like food allergies, for instance, or chronic stress. So your body's stress response is triggered and it's causing this underlying inflammation. So I always think about again coming back to what your baseline is. So if you're experiencing any of us symptoms I describe, then to me you have to start to look deeper.
[00:15:45] And if your period is longer than seven days, that's usually considered a heavy period and that is also something to look at. If it's shorter than two days or if it's just a day or it's just spotting, that's also something to look at, because you ultimately want to make sure that you're ovulating consistently every single month, and then getting a consistent period. So if you're ovulating, then your period is likely to come anywhere from 10 to 16 days after you've ovulated, because that luteal phase--that second half of your cycle--can't really be any longer than that. So it's really important for us to be looking into whether we're ovulating, and then paying attention to what our period is doing every single month. Like The length of our cycle, the length of our period, and the actual physical characteristics... as well as the emotional! That's the other thing too. P.M.S.--I had to come up with a new terminology for P.M.S. or premenstrual syndrome: I call it "period related symptoms." Those symptoms, like the emotional and the physical, and the bloating and the extreme fatigue and the anger... And your significant other doesn't know whether happy yo or angry you is going to walk in the door. Like all of those kinds of things... I think you really have to pay attention to that too.
[00:17:02] Are you super stressed throughout your entire month? And then your body is just like, "I'm done with this--I am going to rage for the next three to five days, because I've had such a crazy month, and this is the truth telling time of the month!" It's the time of the month really where our our hormones are kind of at their lowest and we have a lot less tolerance for things that are annoying. I think it's really important for us to check in as well and not blame yourself if you are feeling these symptoms, but to really recognize that they are, again, something your body is saying to you. And it usually is something along the lines of what was OK two weeks ago when you were ovulating and all things were good is not okay now--and what is that? I've had lots of women say something along the lines of, "I want to break up with my boyfriend," or, "I want my marriage to end around this time of my cycle," and so I'm always saying to them well, check in with that! What is that? What is coming up for you? And really pay attention to it, and start to address it if it's continuing to come up. One day out of the month where you're pissed at everyone is not a big deal, but if it's something that feels more out of control it's definitely something to look at. So that's it in a nutshell.
Jessica: [00:18:21] Yeah, a very large nut! I think even in my circle of friends or even my family, I know so many women that really try to brush this time of the month under the rug. We have so many products that kind of promote this idea--like ugh, my period's coming again, like, just take this thing and shut the door and don't come out for three days…. It's kind of something to be avoided and not talked about and you just sort of wished it was over so that you can carry on with your work. It's kind of like this annoying, disruptive thing. When really it sounds like what you're saying is it's kind of a time to really listen to what it is that you need to carry on into the next cycle to make those changes or shifts that are going to help you feel good or feel better.
Nicole: [00:19:10] Exactly.
Jessica: [00:19:12] It's like this time to listen. Even in our culture we're not always set up that way or given the freedom to really take that time to listen.
Nicole: [00:19:19] Rarely!
Jessica: [00:19:19] But you're saying we should encourage them to really track what happens every month to try to make space for that time and figure out what these changes are. I guess that leads to another question: What's a good method that you recommend for tracking moods and cycles and period fluctuations?
Nicole: [00:19:41] I well I'm a big fan of cycle tracking and period tracking and fertility tracking. I use basically all the devices. I've used tons of apps and I used a paper tracking chart for a long time too! So I really think that every single woman, from the time you get your very first period as a girl, you should be charting your cycle. I was saying this recently in another interview that my goddaughter got her period last month and I was saying to her mom how cool it is that she is able to track her cycle with an app from her very first period! To have that kind of information would be amazing! I only have since my 20s, sadly, but I really believe in that.
Nicole: [00:20:32] I think that when you have a period tracking app and you're putting in the first day of your period, the last day of your period, you have your whole period in there, you have how heavy or light it was, whether you had spotting whether you had a whole host of emotional symptoms or physical symptoms--you can input all of those... And If you track that throughout your cycle, when you look at the symptoms laid out on the app, you can start to see correlations. So you can start to see, for instance, that your bowel movements change according to where you are in your cycle; and you might be able to see that your moods are really crashing maybe after ovulation, or in those five to seven days leading up to your period. So I think that it's really, really fascinating information and it's so empowering for women to have because you can take that information and use it to your advantage. You can use it when you want to potentially get pregnant if you're going to eventually try to get pregnant. You can use it to have a conversation with your doctor and explain what exactly is happening for your menstrual cycle. I love to just again use your cycle as a clue into what is going on with your overall health.
Nicole: [00:21:44] I talk a lot about the idea that a woman's reproductive cycle or menstrual cycle is like the canary in the coal mine…. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, basically, back in the day, miners would take a caged canary down into the coal mines when they were mining because canaries were very sensitive to those noxious gases that could potentially be released and they would die really fast. And so if canary died, the miners knew immediately to get out of there. And so I always talked about that with our menstrual cycle too. It's kind of a weird analogy, but I like it because I feel like our reproductive system is kind of the first to feel the effects of ongoing chronic psychological or physical stress. It's the first to feel nutrient deficiencies, and you will start to see changes in your cycle based on these potential underlying problems. So it's an excellent way to gauge what's going on with your overall health.
Jessica: [00:23:52] Regarding the hormone cycle--like, what does happen with each these phases? You were talking before about progesterone and how that helps keep the uterine linking intact. So I'm curious how the hormonal cycle relates to our stress cycle and stress in general. What sort of changes happen?
Nicole: [00:24:16] So the first thing I should say about this is that… women are exquisitely sensitive. Our bodies just are! We're made that way. Biologically, historically we were designed to be very sensitive to external cues and environmental cues. And that was because we were in charge of protecting our children and elders in our tribes or in our communities. And as a result like we would be--we're obviously not as strong as men--so we had to be very sensitive to what was happening in our surroundings. And I think that that continues to translate into today's modern world. Obviously our circumstances are far different, but our bodies don't really know that. And I think that that's really the crux of the problem. It's like 21st century meets evolution from a hundred thousand years ago. And as a result, we find ourselves in kind of a weird predicament where we have an unprecedented amount of not only psychological stress but the physical stress of living in a crazy city or a polluted city or a very loud noise polluted city. And we're at the point now where we have been focused on you know "reducing" stress or eliminating it, that I think we're actually creating more stress for ourselves. What women need to really recognize is two things: 1) What is your perceived stress? Meaning how do you perceive stress? Because the way I process stress in the way you process it completely two completely different things, [and] 2) We also need to recognize how it's potentially impacting us.
[00:26:09] When it comes to the hormonal component: When you think about psychological stress, which is like the stress of your job, your life, whatever's happening with your relationships, etc., what happens is our brain is taking in all of this. It's like all these inputs are happening and our brain…And what happens is the hypothalamus takes in all of this external stuff. It then talks to the pituitary gland and tells the pituitary, "OK you need to send this stimulating hormone to this gland." So what happens usually is adrenals are like the first responders. So we are constantly telling our adrenals to respond to certain situations and this happens basically on an ongoing basis and we're not even aware of it. But it happens so often for us now that we're at the point where we're almost in this stress overload. We're in this chronic overstimulation, as I like to call it, because there's just so much happening. Whereas our ancestors they would have like an acute moment of stress and then they would be calm for a long period of time and then maybe another acute moment. Whereas for us it's like a zigzag; it's just we're up and down and we're pulsing stress all day long. And so our adrenals are responding, as they're supposed to, and they're telling the other glands in our bodies to calm down or slow down because they perceive danger. And so it's like a hundred thousand year old body in the modern day life.
Nicole: [00:27:44] And it's you know, your argument with your husband or your very crazy work deadline, or whatever... Your body is like, "Oh hell no we're not having a baby during this. There's no way!" And so as a result, these stress hormones or the release of them sort of down-regulate not only your ovarian function but your thyroid function too. So you end up in a situation where your thyroid isn't working as well as it could because cortisol and various other stress hormones can potentially dampen the production of your thyroid hormone. So it messes with the whole feedback loop. Same with your ovaries--like I see constantly women skipping ovulation because they're stressed. And we've seen that so many times, right? You miss a period because you had a really stressful month or you develop amenorrhea even, where you don't get periods at all anymore. You're just not ovulating because your body either is in a state of chronic psychological stress or maybe you're not getting enough nutrients so it views that as a stressful time--it might view it as a famine potentially. And it's got to conserve energy. And so the first things to go are the non-necessary for life functions... like your ovarian function, your thyroid potentially and other things like digestion. That's why so many people have chronic debilitating digestive problems. So there's this whole cascade of effects that happens throughout our life cycle because of this state of chronic stress or chronic overstimulation that we're all experiencing.
Jessica: [00:29:22] And it's so interesting too because it kind of all pairs back down to the reality that we're responsible for our own environment. Or for creating an environment for ourselves or finding the right spaces where we can start to eliminate stress or at least destress some level. We're starting to adopt practices for ourselves. There's not a pill or a doctor that's going to be able to help you stress less! That's kind of up to the individual on certain levels. I know external forces certainly have an impact on that, but I think the turn is really coming towards us equipping ourselves with tools and practices to help lower these stress levels and take care of ourselves on our own terms--rather than relying on a quick fix. It really does seem like from what you're saying that's just masking these signals that your body is trying to tell you what it needs.
Nicole: [00:30:21] Absolutely. I know and that's exactly right. It's the same with something like the birth control pill. We're just masking the symptoms. And again, we've been told for so long and--it's the same with stress-- that there's something wrong with us. And why aren't we adapting? And that's just that couldn't be further from the truth. Our bodies are not broken. In fact they're working exactly as they're supposed to, and we're the ones who have to change how we live in the environment that we're in. And again, I get that that's not always possible for everyone and there are extenuating circumstances for a lot of people on our planet, and so it's not possible. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you do have control over your external environment then make sure to take care of yourself because the bill comes due now or potentially comes due later. But it's going to eventually catch up to us if we are taking care of ourselves.
Jessica: [00:31:20] So you work with people around changing and shifting their diets, sleep habits, and general kind of integrative nutrition aspects that can help lower stress levels. Can you tell us more about those?
Nicole: [00:31:35] Oh yes definitely. I think it's more along the lines of like help to mitigate the effects of stress on their bodies…. I mean I've had friends who moved out of New York completely and moved to the country or moved to another state. The first thing we really look at is what the potential client's most major health concern is and then their subordinate health concerns. Across the board, I always start with tracking your cycle and your symptoms because then you'll be able to see what they're correlating with. So they could potentially be correlating with what's happening in your work, what's happening in your life-- relationship problems or whatever. Or it's something that you're eating….
[00:32:41] So we really have to look at how your body is responding to all of these external stimuli. I start with the menstrual cycle tracking and the symptom tracking, and then we start with the food component because that really is the thing that we have the most control over. In most cases--not in every case. Obviously, there plenty of food deserts all over our country in the world. But ultimately for a lot of us do have control over our diets and what we're eating. And I am a big fan of repleting nutrients. Because we're so depleted--especially those micronutrients, the minerals and the vitamins. We're in a state of such depletion that whole systems in our bodies are basically shutting down, are not functioning the way they're supposed to. That goes for our reproductive system, our digestive function, our liver function, our gallbladders, our pancreases.... All of our different muscles and joints, our thyroid... Everything's kind of in a state of breakdown because of our lack of nutrients. So that's really what I'm focused on most--is starting to address not only the nutrient status of someone but also how they view food because the way we eat and our opinions and beliefs around food are extremely important. Almost as important as what you're eating. So I think we really have to do a lot of work on that as well and as a coach I have found that that is super beneficial. And then we move into the lifestyle component, and that's obviously a big component of our health as well.
Nicole: [00:34:28] And we're not I find that what we do is we sort of just ignore that. We say something along the lines of, "Okay, I'll change my diet and I'll take some supplements, but yeah that five hours a night of sleep is just going to have to be how it is because my life is crazy." I really work to remind my clients that in order for them to feel good and to really achieve the dreams that they have for themselves, or to be the person they want to be for their family or their kids: You have to put on your own oxygen mask first! We really focus on bringing all of these aspects of their lives together and in a way that feels good and healthy for them.
Jessica: [00:35:11] Seguing now into other practices that help us destress and focus in more closely to our bodies for information... I want to get to the topic of vaginal steaming and how that can integrate with this way of helping to destress--or to create space for yourself outside of all these other needs and wants that are constantly knocking on our doors as busy people in a fast-paced, ever-growing society. So can you tell us your thoughts on vaginal steaming and how you see it benefiting a woman's health and potentially fitting into her self-care routine?
Nicole.: [00:35:52] Totally….
Jessica: [00:35:56] I know you wrote a bit about this last summer on your blog and had some pretty strong opinions about how the media is portraying it vs. what it really is....
Nicole: [00:36:12] Yeah. I have some strong opinions, usually, about a lot of things!
[00:36:16] You know I when it comes to vaginal steaming I'd always been curious about it, and the first time I did it was it quite a number of years ago actually. And I just remember thinking what a cool experience! This is not something that anybody really knows about and it's got the potential to really help improve a woman's menstrual cycle symptoms, so why not? And I didn't see how it could be dangerous or how it could potentially be harmful... I found it to be tremendously beneficial because at the time I wrote the article I was dealing with a couple different things. I still period pain and sometimes that comes and goes depending on what's going on during the month prior to my period. And I was traveling a lot because I was in a long distance relationship…. I was starting to get chronic UTIs and I didn't understand what could be going on, and I assumed I was just super stressed. I was traveling to Europe [a lot]... and I was finding that I was getting bacterial infections again too.
[00:37:50] I didn't know if it was just like the chronic stress and the feelings of just being you know --just maxed out! And my body was basically telling me, "Clearly you're maxed out; you need to chill out." So I started doing vaginal steaming, and I was doing it a couple of times a week for a couple of weeks. And I should preface [this] because it's not the same for everyone and this is my own anecdotal, obviously personal, experience: But I remember my UTIs slowly starting to dissipate and they were not coming as often anymore. And the bacterial infections had pretty much gone away. My period pain was diminished. I mean, I had so many great results from it that I just I felt like, “Wow I really have to talk about this and I want to share it with all of my clients as well.” I've subsequently had clients write me and tell me that severe period pain has completely diminished to the point where they don't really have any cramps at all anymore. I've had other clients talk about vaginal infections completely dissipating…. There have been so many different things… like [with] heavy periods as well. That was the other thing that a lot of clients have talked about--how [their heavy periods] have been reduced to the point where they have normal periods and they've never had them [before]. So it's really cool just to see the anecdotal evidence of what a vaginal seeming practice can do.
[00:39:23] So I'm just--I'm all about it. Like I really think that women should try it. You know I had someone when I posted about it the other day on Instagram write me and say that she didn't think her doctor would approve. And I was like, "Well what does your gut tell you?" And that was something that I even wrote in this article. I wanted to share it here.[It's a quote from] Dr. Lissa Rankin that really resonated with me. She said "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.” And I think that really comes back to what I was talking about [earlier]. About the little voice in your head and that our intuition has sort of been slowly diminished over time... because we've been told for so long to do something else or to take these measures instead of just checking in and seeing what feels right. So, yes, I'm a big fan for sure!
Jessica: [00:40:23] I think even on the scale of paying attention to this part of our body-- outside of like, "I have my period right now" or "I'm having sex right now” a [vaginal steaming practice] can also really just be about creating a very peaceful, tranquil, meditative environment for one's self to connect with that part of their body outside of these other functions that it may or may not have. And I think just that paying attention and tuning in is what's helping these women start to regulate their cycle or release something that's... been stuck, let's say. Even on a basic level steam is promoting circulation. Just on a physical level it's bringing attention to an area on our body that might need some heat.
Nicole: [00:41:14] Oh yeah, totally. And I was thinking too about the emotional component, and to build on what you said, about the fact that our awareness of this area of our body has been turned off for so long... And I constantly check in with women and ask them about what their period story is. How did they view their reproductive organs or their vagina, their vulva, etc.? All of everything down there--how have you viewed that for the last 20 years of your life? Like, what was your first period like? Was there a lot of shame? Was there secrecy? Were you were mortified? Did you have a period accident where you bled through your clothes as a teenager? I mean, all of these things contribute to our story about how our menstrual cycle is or how those organs function. Or was there sexual abuse? I mean, a whole host of things that could have happened to you in your life that will determine how you view that part of your body... Whether you like it or don't like it, or whether you just don't even think about it. And in my own experience and that of many women I've worked with, they view that part of their body in a very medical way, in that they just talk to their doctor about it but that's the only time they'll ever talk about it. Really. And there is really no connection. And so I've found that vaginal steaming is almost like a meditative practice where you're SO connected. You can't not be! You're actually, like sitting there, treating that one part of your body that you don't ever even really think about. And I think that reconnection to your vagina… or to, you know, your ovaries, your uterus, womb can really be tremendously healing even in just one session.
Jessica: [00:43:24] Yeah definitely…. I started doing this, I guess it's been about two years now. I usually do it just once a month, maybe three days after my period as kind of a cleansing ritual. I personally have quite regular [periods that feel] normal and healthy for me. But even still, I like to integrate this practice. It's not like there has to be a problem there to feel like you want to do this or try it. It can just be like what you're saying: We haven't really developed a story around our periods that's happy, healthy, excited, or even GRATEFUL that this miracle even happens every month. It's kind of incredible.
Jessica: [00:44:03] We have these 28-day cycles that can sync up to the lunar cycle, and there are all these other connections to natural cycles that happen in nature that we've just become so divorced from. I think part of the issues we're dealing with in our health deteriorating have to do with the need to return back to understanding that. On top of that, there are a lot of plants out there that can also help with certain issues due maybe to stagnation, for example. Historically, in Chinese medicine they use Mugwort (Artemesia), which has kind of that "flow-inducing" quality to it and is used more traditionally for that. So there's a lot of interesting experimentation that can happen too in terms of integrating different herbs. And in the same way that you track your cycle, you can track your steams and get to know which plants are right for you in this new iteration of what is an ancient practice. There's a lot to be explored here and I'm excited that you're excited about it, considering all the expertise you have about women's health... And even just knowing the connection to the emotional side of it. And this is a good space to listen and explore, like, "What is going on this month that made me feel crappy... Or Made me feel amazing?".
Nicole: [00:45:25] Yeah. Like you we were saying, you could literally do a meditation during this practice, and again it just further serves to connect you to that part of your body that you might feel a lot of disconnection around.
Jessica: [00:45:44] You wrote an article that was a reaction to the negative responses to this practice. You said, "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 national rejuvenation surgery, bleaching, spermicides... I'm frankly shocked at the backlash in the media about vaginal steaming. It's mindblowing 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." Seriously! There are so many things that have just sort of accepted as being normal, especially with these synthetic hormones that we use to to control pregnancy....
Nicole: [00:46:42] I know, right!? It's insane to me! Obviously, I'm on the front lines and so I see so much of what goes wrong, and I get that there are millions of women who go through every single month without incident--BUT there are millions now, more, who are NOT going through every month without incidents. And they're experiencing severe, really significant, potentially life-altering problems. And at the hands of all of those things that I listed, we've kind of collectively lost our minds…. I mean, I've lasered, I get it…. It's not like I'm not immune to doing those kinds of things, but when I think about how a doctor would say that lasering or waxing is fine… but vaginal steaming is not.... I mean, yes, there is obviously a risk of being burned by the steam. So you want to use caution, of course. But we are women, we have brains, and we're perfectly capable of handling a bowl of steaming hot water as far as I'm concerned! I believe in women... I trust that we are capable of doing things that are going to take care of our health and that are in our best interest. But it's the same for lasers. You can get burned there too. I've been burned by a laser before. It sucks! I've never been burned by vaginal steaming. So I really think it is important for us to take that with a grain of salt as well. And again, like what Dr. Lissa Rankin says, check in with yourself! Like, does this seem like a cool thing to do? Are you curious? Then, do some more research and see what people have to say about it.
Jessica: [00:48:35] Yeah I think what's cool about it too is you can do this in the privacy of your own home. There are definitely salons popping up everywhere for this practice, believe it not...it's more on the West Coast, but in New York City there are spas that offer a vaginal steaming as a service. But where you're kind of dependent still on the practitioner. But I think what also is great about this is you can do this at home quite simply. And in that case, you're kind of responsible... if you burn yourself. At least this way, it can be done on your own terms, in your own home, in your own way... And you can really be sure you're doing this using your best judgment in a way that feels safe and good for you. And if it doesn't, you STOP, just like anything else!
Nicole: [00:49:21] Right? Exactly, I know! And again, I trust that women know that if it feels too hot down there they're going to get up and... wait, just wait for a minute.
Jessica: [00:49:34] Well Nicole, I think I'm going to wrap up here…. This is has been incredible! You are such a wealth and resource of information on all these topics, and it's really awesome to have been able to share this with our Leiamoon audience today. I highly recommend going to Nicole's website and exploring all the information, videos, quizzes, and guides that she has up there. It's an incredible resource. Thank you for all that you share! For more of Nicole, tune into her podcasts as well and check out her online programs. And of course, continue to stay connected with us at Leiamoon on Facebook, Instagram, and our mailing list as we inch closer to launching our much-anticipated vaginal steam product!
Nicole: [00:50:21] Thank you so much. It was amazing.
DR. MARC SKLAR, DACM, LAc
Natural Fertility Expert / San Diego Reproductive Wellness Clinic Founder
Vaginal Steaming for Fertility and Reproductive Wellness
Jessica: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Welcome. I'm Jessica and I'm here with Dr. Marc Sklar. I'm the co-founder of Leiamoon and super excited to be here with you today. A bit of background on who we are: My husband and I founded Leiamoon two summers ago now with the mission to "Empower the Womb." We've been doing this by creating content and spreading awareness about positive menstruation mindsets and feminine self-care care practices, focusing specifically on vaginal steaming as it relates to women's health. So yes, vaginal steaming! Marc, I know you've had experience saying that phrase [many times].
Dr. Sklar: [00:00:41] Yes!
Jessica: [00:00:43] It sounds totally strange, but it is a really valuable tool that's actually not some new bizarre trend. It's an ancient therapy traced to several different cultures spanning the globe from South America to Korea, passed down for centuries and is recently gaining traction in modern culture as a viable treatment for a spectrum of women's health issues. So to help demystify vaginal steaming, I'm honored to be interviewing you, Marc, the Fertility Expert of the Reproductive Wellness Clinic in San Diego. Marc is a Doctor of Acupuncture, a board-certified herbalist, and an oriental medicine practitioner whose amazing group is committed to helping couples achieve optimal health--equipping them with essential knowledge and support from a medically integrated perspective as he put it. I also love your mission statement: "To help women believe in their fertility, to help them empower their body to create new life using natural techniques." Those choice words behind that philosophy of believing, encouraging, empowering, and creating is really spectacular just in terms of mindset with doctor-patient relationship. So, I caught one of your first YouTube videos three years ago titled "Vaginal Steam Baths for Reproductive Health," so I couldn't be more excited to be speaking with you about this particular topic. So hello, Marc! Welcome.
Dr. Sklar: [00:02:13] Thanks for that beautiful introduction. And thanks for having me, and thanks for finding me three years ago and reaching out! It's an honor to be here, and it's a topic that I talk about often and love talking about and encouraging women to participate in. So thanks for having me. Yeah.
Jessica: [00:02:33] It seems that this practice is rising in popularity--and I use the word "seems" because I'm very careful to recognize that's probably how it looks from my perspective in my circles. But, let's assume, rightfully so, that most people watching have never heard of vaginal steam baths before. Can you just tell us on a basic level what it is and how it's done?
Dr. Sklar: [00:02:56] Yeah... as you mentioned in the introduction, it's been done in many different cultures, and if we start to look at that it's probably been done a little bit differently from culture to culture using different herbs [depending on] what was available to them in those parts of the world. The way I like to incorporate it into our practice and recommend it to our patients is really done to cleanse the uterus, cleanse the vaginal area, the vaginal canal.... I kind of refer to it as...like a facial for your uterus or vagina. For all intents and purposes it should be thought of as being cleansing, relaxing, nourishing, and rejuvenating. And so that's really the mindset that I have and why I encourage it. There are lots of different things that go into it when it comes to fertility and reproductive health, kind of in the simple framework that's kind of why we use it and how we recommend it.
Jessica: [00:04:03] So then the process involves sitting or squatting over a steaming bowl of water?
Dr. Sklar: [00:04:08] Yes essentially. Yeah, so there's a couple different ways to do it when it comes to the technical aspect of it and I have some patients who prefer to put the herbs in the bowl and pour the hot water and just let it steep there and I have others who prefer to steep it separately and then poured into the bowl and transfer and so forth. It's really what's going to be easier and most useful and more practical for the person doing it. In general what we recommend is you boil the hot water, you get your herbs, you take a scoop of it, you put it into a bowl, pour the hot water over it and let it steep for about five minutes. I like to cover it while it steeps to keep the heat in. We used to have a kind of kettle pot that you can also boil the water and the herbs all at the same time in the pot, which is also nice. That's why I said there's all sorts of different ways to do that part of it.
[00:05:20] But in essence you're taking that bowl of steeped herbs and you're putting it...now the chair part which we discussed before we started the segment is a whole other technical issue, but you get an open chair similar to a toilet seat on top, you put the herbs underneath, you're disrobed from the waist down and then you sit on top of the seat and let the steam come up. The key here is you want to be covered all the way around, so you've got to have either a big blanket or a big towel that drapes all the way around to the floor and cover so there's really no opening, so the only place for the steam to go is up and you sit on the chair and allow that to happen. Periodically as the water cools down you might have to refresh it with a little bit more warm water and so that's something to be careful of. I also say the distance between the hot water, the steam and your skin is also critical here. I've had someone try to do it with a sitz bath basin on a toilet and I think that's way too close, or you really can't use that hot water. I think that part of it is a little bit challenging or can be, so you want to make sure that that water's always fresh. I usually encourage patients to sit there anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the time that they have and to relax, either listen to a nice meditation, read a relaxing book. This is time for you, it's not time to watch TV, although I'm sure people do that, it's not time to be working. It's time to be with yourself, with your body, to connect with yourself and allow this to be a really relaxing process.
Jessica: [00:07:18] I'm glad you covered too distance from the steam because a few of our Instagram followers are writing in wondering how far is too far, how close is too close. I think the main concern would be don't bring yourself a new [inaudible] as much as possible. Yeah, those are all different really valuable ways of being able to do it at home, either with the sitz bath or using the toilet bowl, or a camping toilet you were talking about, a lot of stools are out there for this specific purpose. So it seems to be a variety of tools available now for this practice which is great. Another question that we get a lot is, does the steam actually go up through the vaginal canal, through the cervix into the womb and uterus space? That seems kind of up for debate and [I am] imagining it may depend on where the woman is at in her menstrual cycle or how the body is positioned. [00:08:17] I'm curious if you kind of sunk deep into the rabbit hole of analyzing all of those potential spaces the steam might be carrying to and what that might mean. [12.6]
Dr. Sklar: [00:08:30] Yeah... I think it's hard to know for certain how far the steam goes. I feel pretty confident that the healing properties of the herbs and the steam in which [they're] carried definitely hit the external vaginal tissue. I think it... would easily get into the vaginal canal and possibly even the cervix...How far it gets beyond that is really difficult to know. And like you said, I do think it depends on how open the cervix is--so that would be based on kind of where a woman is in her cycle. That being said, if someone is trying to conceive, I only recommend doing this practice between menstruation and before trying. So I usually say just to keep it simple to ovulation, but if you're actively trying, before that then we cut off [the vaginal steaming] before that. So, we don't want anything to interfere with the environment, with the natural process of sperm getting to the egg, so if you're actively having intercourse for conception purposes, and typically it starts before ovulation, then we would cut off [the vaginal steaming] before then. So with that, when you look at timing and practicalities of it, you're really only able to get it in once--probably once, maybe twice in a very short period of time. If you're not trying then we've got a whole month theoretically to do it and I think it's totally fine to go at different times. For that then yes, I think doing it right at ovulation actually would make a lot of sense because that's when the cervix is the most open and so it has the most potential to get as far up into the uterus as possible. I also don't think it's a bad idea to do it just as you're tapering during menstruation, at the end of menstruation to start that there as well to help kind of facilitate that final process of cleaning out and emptying of the endometrium tissue and so forth. I think that's also a fine time to do it as well.
Jessica: [00:10:52] So not during menstruation, but you would say...
Dr. Sklar: [00:10:54] I don't like to recommend doing it during menstruation personally. I like to let the body do what it's supposed to do. Now, there's a lot of variables that come into play here, right. All sorts of different conditions, issues that potentially can arise or someone might develop in the reproductive organs, in pelvic area that may require a different protocol, different timing. But in general I don't recommend doing it during menstruation, during the heavier days.
Jessica: [00:11:29] I guess intuitively it would make sense. When your body is naturally going through the shedding process or the release, you would think that you wouldn't necessarily want to be counteracting that by doing [inaudible].
Dr. Sklar: [00:11:41] I don't think that I've ever seen...if There is literature out there to show us that in different cultures they are doing [vaginal steam] during menstruation, I haven't seen.
Jessica: [00:11:52] That makes sense. I guess in looking at the history of it or its roots in eastern medicine the real primary function of it, you're talking more about cleansing the uterus but are there other reasons why women would do this and why it might be better to do at certain times of the month than others?
Dr. Sklar: [00:12:12] Most certainly if women have certain conditions, let's say fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, things of that nature, some sort of blockage, then I do think it's... Well first I would say then if you're trying to conceive or taking a break during that time period, so that way you can give yourself the whole cycle to do [the vaginal steam] as many times as necessary. But then yes, for those conditions you kind of want to take advantage of the process. I don't typically believe and I haven't seen that just steaming on its own will be enough to make changes in these conditions that I mentioned, but I do think steaming in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, herbs, whatever we might incorporate into it, also can have a profound effect. Yeah.
Jessica: [00:13:13] Then what are those effects of the steam coupled with the herbs? Even if you're just to talk about steam alone, bringing moist heat to this area of our body, what does that do on a physiological level?
Dr. Sklar: [00:13:29] You know, just like anything when we think about heat, heat is always going to be more opening, more moving, it increases more circulation or cold constricts, right? So just the natural process of heat in general first and foremost is going to increase more blood circulation to that area. When we talk about moist heat like we're doing here, then that brings more nourishment as well with that circulation. So I do think that combination is really important. You know in Chinese medicine one of the therapies that we use quite often is called Moxibustion and it's a similar process. I mean, people would say, "Well, what does burning this herb on top of the skin--how is that going to be therapeutic? What's that going to do? But there are thousands maybe even tens or hundreds of thousands of research articles just on using this therapy for specific conditions and it has been documented to have very therapeutic results beyond just increasing blood circulation. There are properties within the herbs that we're using, not just for moxibustion, but also absolutely here when we talk about steaming and these properties are then transmitted, if you will, right through the steam and through the heat and that moisture and those properties and those herbs, depending on what herbs you're using are going to have a fair therapeutic effect depending on again what the therapy is or what you're trying to achieve. So I think it's hard for our Western logical mind if you will, to grasp this and conceptualize this and really understand this to be true. But I've seen it clinically so I know repeatedly what the potential is and what can be possible and I encourage those people who are questioning this or something similar, to just let your rational mind step aside for a moment and practice it for yourself, see how you feel, see what happens during the process for yourself.
Jessica: [00:15:49] Again, even as you mentioned earlier about the idea of making space for yourself to kind of relax into this practice and end in a meditative way and the benefits it can have on that more kind of psycho-spiritual level are very deeply related it seems to the physiological benefits. You're right, there is this tendency for us to want to sink more into the rational mind and want to know the science answers and that those are going to be separate from the more emotional body or spiritual answers. I think what you're suggesting here is that we kind of need to start making this a dichotomy and really think about this practice as an opportunity to kind of experience physiological benefits that might also help us cross over into the psycho-spiritual emotional one. I think that plays a huge role in fertility, I am sure in your experience.
Dr. Sklar: [00:16:44] Yeah absolutely. You know I think--it's not to say I'm a big fan of research and science, so don't get me wrong in this, but I don't think it's everything, right. I think it has its place but there is a reason why something's been done in multiple cultures repeatedly over centuries and passed down from generation to generation because it's been seen to have positive results. So you know, we might call it an old wives' tale or whatever wording we want to use. I prefer to say it's something that you know--I like to trust intuition. I like to trust female intuition. I think it's a little bit more intuitive than male intuition for the most part, making generalizations, but for the most part. So with that I have to trust that generations and generations and generations ago when this was started, that they found something that was beneficial both spiritually and physically, that this was something that continued to be passed down from generation to generation within families and then became more widely used. So there's definitely something for a Western mind when it comes to science, but I don't think that that's the end all be all. Certainly science when it comes to research and steaming, there's a lot that can be done and maybe should be done moving forward, but really very little that has been done up until this point when we start talking about the real research and science behind it and what therapeutically it can achieve together, looking at the cause and effect.
Jessica: [00:18:32] For sure and even I guess in your own practice to have these studies of where you can link steaming specifically to positive fertility results or helping to heal endometriosis or any other women's health issues.
Dr. Sklar: [00:18:49] I don't have a lot of research in that regard because like I said, there's really very little that I have found of good science I should say. But I think that would be more valuable to me or more important for me if that was the only therapy that I was using with patients. For me this is just a piece of the puzzle. It's a piece I like and that I recommend often, just like other things, but it's not the only thing that I rely on. Sometimes it takes multiple pieces to finish the puzzle... this is just one of those little pieces that go together.
Jessica: [00:19:32] Well, in which cases would you recommend this to your patients? Is it pretty general with you or are there specific instances where you're like, "Oh, I know what you need: vaginal steaming."
Dr. Sklar: [00:19:46] I do think that in general terms if someone just wants to do something that feels nourishing and therapeutic and they're taking some time out for themselves, I don't think there's any harm in doing this, especially if you're just going to do it once a month. Now I think with anything as you know people have potentially heard me say before, I have my mother whispering in my ear, "Everything in moderation." You know I do believe that as long as we do this sort of thing in moderation and you're not doing it every day, then I think it's completely safe. But if you're going to be trying to do this every day it's excessive, right. So now you're starting to get into a different territory where you're starting to potentially change environments and that I you know I don't condone. So I think just like with everything there needs to be balance. So if someone who came in and it wasn't at the top of my list of recommendations, I would still say, "You know, I think you can do this. I would just have you do it once a month because it helps to be cleansing for the uterus, helps bring more nourishment and circulation to the area, so I think you can do this." Now there are specific conditions where anything that has any obstruction in the pelvic area, then I do potentially recommend it. So if someone comes in complaining of pain, pelvic pain or dysmenorrhea, I think of this in conjunction with other things. If someone has a history of endometriosis, blocked tubes, cysts, polyps, fibroids things of that nature then certainly this would be something I'd recommend.
Jessica: [00:21:35] Great, I'm sure you get a lot of people coming to your office not knowing very much about the processes of their own body that happened involuntarily each month. They know they get a period and then they know now they want to get pregnant, but all this stuff in between has remained mysterious for most of our lives. It is a great mystery to just be fair, but so much of what you do must just be related to education and helping connect people to this part of their body so that they have a much deeper understanding of what's going on, so that they can get to where they want to be. Which I think is part of your empowerment philosophy: empowering your patients with the information and tools to really get to know themselves, to be able to speak with their body more directly and get those results. So I think steaming as a practice in a sense can help women communicate with that part of their bodies, kind for the reasons you're say: on a physiological basis because it is a lot to do with opening and bringing the heat and increasing circulation. Also just in developing that kind of mind-body awareness. Like, oh this is a space that I have here that's not just for making babies either you know. It's something that goes through this natural hormonal cycle every month and it's certainly talking to us.
Dr. Sklar: [00:23:00] Oh absolutely. I mean I'm always amazed at the lack of education that women get about their bodies, all of us, men and women, but I primarily deal with a lot of women. I'm always amazed at the lack of education that they get about their regular cycles, their hormonal rhythms, their uterus. In so much of what the culture is here in the West is very much about being here and not here, right. Not in our bodies, more in our brain. So everything's very logical and very less so about what's going on, what do we feel and what does that mean and being in tune with our bodies. For women, I think it's really important for you to be in tune with your body. It's something that if we just listen to what our body says to us, then I do think that we can learn a lot and we might make different decisions as well. So the amount of education that I do with women on a regular basis is a lot, it's extreme because of that lack of education that they get growing up. It's such a--we don't have to go into the politics of it, but like it's such a taboo topic to start to talk about sex, breast and uterine health, and what should I notice in vaginal changes and things of this nature. It's really not something that is communicated a lot, and the way it is communicated with or about in schools, even if they still do sex ed, which I'm not quite sure if they do. You know, they talk about it as something, hey we're going to talk about this but we don't want you to talk about it again. They make it to be embarrassing and not something to be honored and proud of, which I know is different in other cultures and other countries. So I think this makes it more difficult for women in the West to understand their bodies and understand what's going on. And so just the subtle shifts, changes, signs, symptoms that change from week-to-week, day-to-day in a woman's cycle can be very empowering because they give you so much information. Until this practice allows you to be more in tune with your body, allows you to understand your body a little bit more. I think it's extremely valuable, right. Why am I having discharge now versus later and why is the discharge changing? Oh I did the steaming and my discharge improved or went away. These are all things that are very valuable pieces of information that I think we take for granted in many ways and we just ignore it.
Jessica: [00:26:06] For sure. What about stress? How does stress affects that cyclical nature or discharges as you're explaining or other pieces of women reproductive health? I'm sure in fertility that can be a really big signal of why things aren't going maybe as planned, because there's just so much distraction from the body being able to relax into creation versus having a guard up against it.
Dr. Sklar: [00:26:34] Yes. I mean stress just like with any health issue is something that definitely needs to be managed, discussed and hopefully kicked to the curb if we can, but stress makes every health condition we have worse and there are countless research articles that just showed that. So if we can manage our stress then that's a huge benefit to us. If this is a means to do that, because it gives you time with yourself, even if it's just once a week or once a month, it's more than what you had before. Now I do like to encourage more than that but if this is one way you do that and one way that you can gather yourself and be with yourself, be more in tune with yourself you'll find that your stress levels go down, you'll find that you're more comfortable with listening to your body and more comfortable with listening to the world around you, that you might make different decisions. This goes hand in hand with that then.
Jessica: [00:27:42] Are the herbs that you prescribe alongside with steaming herbs related to ones that promote relaxation and destressing? I'm sure there are also ones that are specific to the reproductive system. I am just curious to hear. I'm sure there are different herbs that give different...
Dr. Sklar: [00:28:02] Well, part of it, for sure there are. All herbs do different things. My standard formula which is what I use right now and I am formulating different steaming formulas for different conditions currently, but my standard formula, if I'm not mistaken, is about 12 or 13 different herbs and they each do different things but part of the therapeutic nature also is how do they smell right. Like when we inhale it how does that make us feel. Just like essential oils essentially. So yes, I'm picking things for different reasons, but most of the herbs [selected] are [because] of the effect [they] are going to have on the tissue. What effect is this going to have on the area. So, like mugwort is one that I recommend and use in my blend. And that's also the main herb that is used in moxibustion. I called it a herb, it's a weed. You can find it on the side of the road if you decide to harvest it. But mugwort has a lot of therapeutic actions in Chinese medicine. It's very healing, very tonifying and strengthening but also very moving for increasing blood circulation and breaking blockages. So that's one of the reasons why I use mug water a lot. But on the contrary, I have marshmallow in one of my blend and that's very healing and very nurturing, right. So it's about finding the right formulation for each condition essentially and kind of putting that together in the right way. But absolutely smelling it It's definitely one aspect of it because that's going to help us relax, right.
Jessica: [00:29:51] Definitely. Do, you find that there's a difference or recommendation between using fresh or dried herbs or just where you're sourcing them, whether or not they're organic?
Dr. Sklar: [00:30:02] I mean all of our herbs are sourced organically. For me that's always something that is very important. You know, I think if you have a garden with these herbs readily available, then sourcing them fresh, picking them and using them fresh like that, I think is awesome. I think most people practically just don't and so the next best thing would be getting that dried herb just like you would use it for a tea, you're just using for steaming.
Jessica: [00:30:36] I know some people asked about using essential oils with steaming and from what I understand that's just extremely strong and the [inaudible] oils are just really potent and not necessarily appropriate for this practice. There's quite a big different I guess in terms of potency from having loose dried herbs versus using an oil.
Dr. Sklar: [00:30:52] I think so. I mean essential oils have made a big push if you will in the last 10 years or so and they're great but they're really strong and processed and blended in a certain way to be very strong on purpose. I don't recommend using them for steaming. I think you want fresh or dried herbs because there's a process of the steeping of it also that breaks up the herb itself that emits the properties and the properties are different with oils. They're not exactly the same with an oil as they are with--I'm not an essential oil specialist but from my understanding and reading, it's not the same as using an herb.
Jessica: [00:31:50] That makes sense.
Dr. Sklar: [00:31:51] Yeah.
Jessica: [00:31:54] When you were mentioning mugwort, that's the herb that I constantly hear about when I think of vaginal steaming. I think in general if you look at any Korean medicine it's used for a whole host of different things.
Dr. Sklar: [00:32:05] Well yeah, it's big in Asian culture. Yeah.
Jessica: [00:32:08] But I also really appreciate its relationship to--I think the other name for it is artemisia, and that kind of bears a relationship to Artemus the Greek god of the moon and there's like all this symbolism packed behind it too and its relationship to the moon and having this silvery underside of its leaf. So how much of the signature of the plant do you pick up when you're prescribing that as your main vaginal steam herb?
Dr. Sklar: [00:32:40] You know I haven't thought of it in that way. I'd say that I like that sense of it but that's not typically how I decide. You know most herbs have multiple properties and actions and so I'm looking at those as my primary means of picking it out, but you know each herb also has a flavor and other qualities to it but it's not just about this properties right. Some of them might be pungent and warm and so all of those things are things that we have to take into account when we're looking at formulation, right. At least from my practice of Chinese medicine, we rarely use [only] one herb in anything. Very rarely--it's usually a blend. And it's about... not just what those individual properties are on their own, but how do they work together with one another. And you have to take into account all of those things.
Jessica: [00:33:48] Well I guess too that it's nice to know that compared to essential oils the herbal actions are relatively subtle or somewhat tempered by the heat or the steam that's carrying the herb. There's a lot of concern [about whether] steaming causes yeast infections or really disrupts the microbiome of the vagina and does this harm the beneficial bacteria in some way. So I'm curious if you have any ways of dispelling those types of thought trains that seem to kind of bash vaginal steaming as a practice, and if there are any real health risks concerning steaming that we should know about.
Dr. Sklar: [00:34:34] I mean, I've seen some of those concerns as well and I don't really find them to be true. The biggest concern from me is burn[s]. Like, how close to your skin are you putting it. So, you can absolutely burn yourself with steam. So that's really my biggest concern with patients and I always want everyone to be careful about that. That aside, I have never seen anyone who does it properly and does it the way I suggest. I've never seen it cause any negative effects in the vaginal area. I've never seen it cause yeast infections. Quite the contrary. [For example], I recommend oregano as one of the herbs and that has a very antibacterial, anti-fungal property to it.... I think it would actually benefit something like that, not cause something like that to happen. On the flip side, like what I said before, I think if someone does this excessively and does this daily for instance, and I'm going from one extreme to the other obviously, but let's do that for the sake of the conversation, that I do think it can change things. [If] you're influencing the environment regularly and not allowing the body to recover from that and balance that out, then yes, I do think it can have adverse effects. I have yet to see anyone do anything like this, but I don't want to discount that and then have somebody just start to do it every day. But I haven't seen it in practice, and I haven't seen anybody have any negative side effects from [steaming]. But you know in terms of changing microbiome: yeah, I would say the same thing. Like, if you're going to have Burger King everyday then it's going to change the microbiome of your intestines, right? Okay. Well if you're going to do this every day it's probably going to change the environment [of your vagina]. But if you do it once a month, twice a month, maybe even three times a month spaced out, then I don't think that it will have that sort of effect, and I've never seen that.
Jessica: [00:37:01] That makes sense. I think just, again, using your intuition for when it feels appropriate to do so, especially as like a cleansing or releasing ritual--that it would make sense to do this after menstruation or even like the few days before menstruation to help encourage that flow. But to then do this like every day, personally that's not how I've been attracted to the practice.
Dr. Sklar: [00:37:27] No and I've never seen anyone who said, "Oh, I want to do this daily. Can I do it daily?" It's a process too, so it's not that easy or practical to do on a daily basis.
Jessica: [00:37:39] I guess other reasons why you wouldn't do this. Well, obviously if you have an open wound or something that would get irritated externally then yeah, avoid steaming. Also, I've been reading that if you have an IUD that it really wouldn't be a good idea to steam. But I think it depends on the material of the IUD. I've read some different things on that.
Dr. Sklar: [00:38:08] An IUD and where its placement is can definitely be affected by [vaginal steaming]. I would imagine that it could be loosened. There's also all sorts of variables [and] reasons why I wouldn't do this with an IUD. That being said, I don't typically have patients who have IUDs so it's not something I'm thinking about often.
Jessica: [00:38:38] That's what I was going to mention. I know your focus is more on fertility and helping people get pregnant, so you're probably really dealing with people during a specific life phase. And I get questions a lot too about well, "What if I had a hysterectomy?" or "I've gone through menopause, why would vaginal steaming be something that would benefit me or something I would want to do?" I think still for the kind of mind-body connection that we spoke about earlier--that this could be a practice valuable to a woman throughout any life phase.
Dr. Sklar: [00:39:13] Yeah. And I think actually it would be really valuable for a woman who has had a hysterectomy or is in menopause or post-menopause because the tissue changes. The tissue becomes less elastic and drier and intercourse becomes more uncomfortable. So if you can revitalize the tissue, if you can bring more moisture and nourishment to the tissue, and decrease pain during intercourse, I think everyone would want something like that, assuming that they're having regular intercourse, then I see no reason why you wouldn't do this in those circumstances. I also think a time where it would be beneficial is certainly after the healing process and after you've done bleeding, but postpartum. I think it's very healing. I often recommend it for patients postpartum. I just want them to be done bleeding--and some women can bleed for weeks postpartum-- so my only requirement is that you're pretty much done bleeding postpartum, and then I think it's really beneficial. Yeah.
Jessica: [00:40:26] Yeah and as this practice gains popularity....I mean you're someone that's been advocating for it for a long time and I think [you're] someone that well studied in Eastern medicine and that makes a lot of sense for your practice. Do You have any suggestions for what we can do as a community of people promoting this way of healing to help dispel some of the negative talk around it?
Dr. Sklar: [00:41:00] So I don't really focus on the negative talk very much personally. There's always going to be negative talk about everything because there are negative people out there and they want to bash things. I just focus on the positive and I think really just talking about the positive effects, and also being grounded and open to more research, more knowledge and information about it is also important. But I really just focus on the therapeutic nature of it, how it can be used properly, and then really working around that and creating the community of women who want to take time to heal themselves, to nurture themselves and really promoting that aspect of things, I think is really where the focus needs to be on personally.
Jessica: [00:41:55] Yeah for sure. I mean, that's what we plan to do too to focus more on the encouraging/empowering side of things than giving too much time to the criticisms. But at the same time, I think it is important to get the case studies better documented and backing up why this is such an awesome practice as it is, rooted in real history.
Dr. Sklar: [00:42:22] Yeah. I mean we need that we need that information. But I think that information should be gathered because we find it important and valuable for the practice, and not to basically combat those who don't believe in it or are negative.
Jessica: [00:42:46] Well thank you so much Marc! Any other closing comments you'd like to share with us?
Dr. Sklar: [00:42:52] No. Were there any comments from those watching? We can answer their questions if they had any.
Jessica: [00:43:14] Anna says "sounds like steaming is 'tea for the V.'"
Dr. Sklar: [00:43:18] I like that.
Jessica: [00:43:19] Could you drink mugwort tea while steaming with mugwort?
Dr. Sklar: [00:43:29] Did someone ask that question?
Jessica: [00:43:29] I'm asking this question.
Dr. Sklar: [00:43:29] Oh, you're asking. We don't usually use mugwort in that way. Mugwort I don't often use to ingest--so, no I wouldn't recommend it. But I think, you know, a nice relaxing rooibos tea or chamomile tea would be great with it.
Jessica: [00:43:49] From our Instagram we had someone ask, "Is vaginal steaming a purely spiritual practice or are there evidence-based opinions about the physiological benefits? What is the research behind it? We touched on that.
Dr. Sklar: [00:44:23] I think we touched on that right?
Jessica: [00:44:29] Someone was asking how to set a vaginal steaming to be in a comfortable or relaxing position.
Dr. Sklar: [00:44:36] Yeah that's hard! Especially depending on the seat you're using, it can be challenging. I think that it's just trying to get as much padding on the seat for yourself [as possible]. Or maybe you only do it for 15-20 minutes versus longer. But I always like to have a nice environment.... If you need some support for your back, then maybe position it so you're up against the wall so you can lean back if you need to. But I like to have some nice music. I like the room to be warm. And I like to have some essential oils in the background or meditation on. Just something you can relax into with it.
Jessica: [00:45:33] Another position I found is--I usually move around a lot while I'm doing this because it's kind of hard to squat for 20-30 minutes at a time--but even getting into a child's pose with the bowl kind of resting between your feet, from the backside... that can be a nice closing position in my humble opinion, for a vaginal steam.
Dr. Sklar: [00:46:02] I will trust you on that. I've never recommended it so I don't have that feedback.
Jessica: [00:46:11] I'm getting another question from Eva. Any advice for menopausal women?
Dr. Sklar: [00:46:17] I'm assuming that we're saying around using steam. It depends on what the advice is for, like what symptomology you're having during menopause, but assuming that there are issues vaginally, then yes I would be absolutely using the steam for this.
Jessica: [00:46:40] Yeah, I think even your point earlier about the lining losing its cushion or elasticity over time, that this would be a really great practice to kind of keep it moist or just "activate" it in that way too. Are there certain herbs that are better for that life phase?
Dr. Sklar: [00:47:00] Yeah there are! If I start naming Chinese herbs I don't think anyone's going to know what they are, but that's where I would be using some of the Chinese herbs that I use frequently.
Jessica: [00:47:23] It looks like that's all the questions I can find here in our Facebook comments.
Dr. Sklar: [00:47:29] I think someone just posted something on Facebook. Andrew did about melting fibroids, and I'm happy to answer this question. You know, I've never seen a [situation] where someone claims that they've just done steaming and their fibroids have completely disappeared because of it. It's one of the reasons I said it earlier, when it comes to fibroids this is just a piece of everything else that we would do for a patient. Fibroids are not the easiest things to change. They don't just disappear or go away very quickly. It's a process.... Do I think it can be beneficial for that with the right herbs? Yes. Do I think that on its own it's going to melt fibroids. No.
Jessica: [00:48:31] Even for people that have surgeries to remove fibroids, or even just endometriosis, that steaming is a protocol afterwards to help prevent...
Dr. Sklar: [00:48:45] And to heal the area.
Jessica: [00:48:47] Yes, that's good. We have another question here from BJ.
Dr. Sklar: [00:48:57] How long does it take to practice steaming before you see changes or improvements? It really just depends on what changes or improvements you're trying to see. Some things happen faster, some things happened slower. It also depends on how frequently you're doing it. Most women that I've seen have always said that they've noticed some change with just one steam. Sometimes more discharge, which is not uncommon... Sometimes just a change in sensation or in the environment [of the vagina]. But for those things to be longer lasting, then I do think it's got to be used regularly and repeatedly.
Jessica: [00:49:39] Something I've noticed on a more personal level is that even with the menstrual cycle you can experience some stagnation towards the end or beginning of your period, and maybe get a bit more brown coloration versus the kind of red, fresh blood, fresh release. And I think steaming really helps make that a much kind of clearer, thicker passing.
[00:50:17] This is an IUD question again that we touched on. Can you steam if you have an IUD?
Dr. Sklar: [00:50:17] Yeah, I don't recommend it. As we mentioned earlier, I don't think that's the wisest thing to do.
Jessica: [00:50:26] I know some that do it but I personally don't have experience with IUDs, so I can't speak to that directly.
Dr. Sklar: [00:50:34] Yeah, I steer away from them.
Jessica: [00:50:36] I think it also has to do with the material of the IUD. Some of them are metallic and even if you think about that from a purely material perspective it would be heating up.
Dr. Sklar: [00:50:52] Yes, I agree with that completely. Excellent.
Jessica: [00:50:58] Yeah I think that's our last question.
Dr. Sklar: [00:51:01] Awesome.
Jessica: [00:51:02] So thank you again Marc! This is so great to talk to you live here! For everyone watching I highly recommend checking out Marc's YouTube channel, Fertility TV. There's just so much content there and all of it is super great. It's such a wide spectrum of subjects that you touch on there. Your fertility workshop is live now on marcsklar.com Check him out! And of course stay connected with us @Leiamoon on Facebook, Instagram, our mailing list. We're preparing for two very exciting vaginal steaming-related product launches later this year that we really can't wait to get out there and link up with you on! Thanks again for tuning in and have a great rest of your day.
Dr. Sklar: [00:51:56] Thank you. Bye everyone.
Jessica: [00:51:57] Bye. Thanks Marc, really appreciate it.
Dr. Sklar: [00:52:09] You're welcome.
Jessica: [00:52:11] And we'll keep you posted.
DR. TOSHA “TRUTH” ROGERS, D.O.
Renowned OB/GYN Specializing in Empowered Relationships
Vaginal Steaming Insights from an OBGYN Perspective
Jessica: [00:00:02] Hi everyone. Thanks for joining in this for a special interview today with OBGYN Dr. Tosha Rogers. I'm Jessica, co-founder of Leiamoon, and I must say that living 36 years in a female body I'm still constantly learning new things about it every day. So part of the reason why we founded Leiamoon and why we're here today is to create a space for women to share more information and empower each other to lead more aware, fuller lives. So today I'm here to pick the brain of Dr. Tosha "Truth" Rogers with you. Dr. Rogers is an OBGYN and founder of Atlanta premier OBGYN Associates. Her private practice is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and she too is committed to advocating for women's health within her own community and far beyond as both a writer, speaker, and special guest on several TV programs. Now she's here with us today. So Dr. Tosha thanks for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:00:59] Oh no it is my pleasure. I'm so excited to be here.
[00:01:03] Thank you. And so just to jump right in: Can you tell us more about your own story--where you're from and what led you to become an OBGYN and open your own women's health boutique?
[00:01:15] I'm originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was completely educated in Philadelphia as a child. I went to Drexel for undergrad, I went to PCOM for med school, and then ultimately, I did my residency in Philadelphia as well. When I initially started medical school, I wanted to be a cardiologist, strangely enough. [Being an OBGYN] was the last thing I wanted to do-- it was really a calling. And I'll say that because, when I did my rotation--we have to do rotations--I said to the head resident, "I don't want to do this... so tell me what I need to do the pass because I'm sure you don't want to spend your time teaching somebody who doesn't really want to do this." And she's like, "You're absolutely correct. But what you do need to do is deliver a baby, and one is ready to be delivered now so let's go!" So I went into the room and it completely changed my life. I don't mean to sound corny, but it really did. It's like the energy when a baby is coming into the world, the energy in the room changes. Something changes. It's almost unspeakable and you can’t understand it. From that second on, it had me. I was there six o'clock in the morning, I wouldn't leave until 11:00p.m. And for it to be the last thing I thought I would ever do, it just completely captivated me, and I've been completely captivated from that day.
Jessica: [00:02:35] Wow.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:02:41] So I trained in Philadelphia. You know, I love my city... But there's a big world out there and I did not want to just limit myself to Philadelphia. So I moved to North Carolina and I worked for a while and it was very interesting. I wasn't a fan so much. It wasn't very progressive--they were very 1960's with their care and how they thought about women's health and it didn't jive so much with me. So I moved to Atlanta, and after working in a couple of practices in Atlanta that were just very factor-like, very "in-and-out, 50 patients a day. Get the PAP done. We don't care who sees the patient. Let the nurse practitioner see them, let the midwife see them. Who cares. They'll be fine. Oh, they're bleeding? Who has time to patch them up?" And was just like, wait a minute this is not a third world country. What are we doing?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:03:31] So I branched off from there and I decided to start the Atlanta Premiere OBGYN. The principles of the practice are very different than most practices in that the biggest thing for me is that I listen to my patients. Patients will generally tell you what's wrong with them--you just have to take the time to listen. They don't know what it is, but they can verbalize so that you can figure out what it is. So we give them kind care, we give them good care. We listen to them and we're respectful to them. We ask for that same thing back from our patients that we don't have any issues, but that is something that I'm big on providing in my practice. My patients are very clear, and if they're not getting what, they want they let me know we change things immediately. As women we are not all the same. You have some women who are great with western medicine: give them as many prescriptions as you can and they're happy. And then you have other women who are like, "there has to be a better way. I don't want to take a bunch of medicine. I don't want to do this. I don't want to do, you know the 'traditional way.' I know there are other ways and I don't want to keep coming at a hundred times. What can you do to fix me?" And I realize that that is not just a straightforward thing. You know sometimes you may have to go more holistic. You may do some Chinese medicine you may have to do some herbal medicine. And then there are times when Western medicine is the only fix. So with integrating all of those things into the practice, I've found that I've gotten the best results for my patients and with patients are.
Jessica: [00:05:08] Do you feel that having this foundation in the way you speak to your patients-- like even being nicknamed "Dr. Truth"-- is a helpful way that you create more of an open forum for the people that come to see you to feel more comfortable sharing more personal information about their health?
Jessica: [00:08:53] And I guess I'm curious where you got this nickname--or is it an addition to your name: "Truth." Or maybe that is your middle name??
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:09:01] Well no it's not a middle name. But you know, one of my spiels to my patients is "This is a no judgment zone," and that's the first thing I say to them. "There's not an ounce of judgment in my body, but I am going to tell you the truth. And I'll make you think, but I'm going to tell you the truth." And patients really like that about me. They're like, "At least you told me, at least they know the truth, at least they understand." So patients will say "Doctor Truth, Doctor Truth!" And that's where it came from.
Jessica: [00:09:33] I think being more of a straight shooter like that must really allow your patients to open up more.... And share more than just their physical ailments are symptoms. What I learned about women's health issues and my own health is like there's just so much more loaded into it that we don't always talk about: Like the psycho-spiritual-emotional health of a person... and that seems to really--especially women's health specifically--have an effect on the proper functioning of our bodies. So I imagine it's important to be coming from that place of nonjudgment and truth.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:10:11] Absolutely. And the thing is the thing that helps is that I can kind of read people very well, so in the first two or three minutes I kind of know how to communicate with you. Very important. Everything is intimately connected. You might say "I have a low libido." "No, your problems in your relationship. Let's talk about it!" And we talk about boyfriends and sex and parents and what's holding you back.... So everything is encompassed. And it takes some time, but I'd rather spend the proper amount of time and get where I need to be than kind of just play around with you and never fully help you.
Jessica: [00:10:48] Yeah. That makes so much sense. So, in helping women what issues come up most frequently that you feel most called to address and make more people aware of?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:11:15] Across the board, what I've noticed with women is they are afraid to rock the boat in relationships even in marriages. [For example] in conversing, one of my questions is "Are you sexually active?" And most people obviously say yes. "Protected or unprotected?" ...and then when I say, "When's the last time you saw his STD testing with your own eyes?" "Ninety percent of women will say, "Never." Outside of the fact that this is terribly dangerous. It gets to another root of it: I'll say, "So you're doing this, and you didn't even make him prove to you that he didn't have HIV. How you feel about that?"
[00:11:56] And they're like, "I don't know." And I'm like, "Well is the problem him or you? What is it that's happening that you feel that you cannot express to somebody who you're performing a very intimate act with, like, 'hey, are you okay? Do you have a chronic disease that you can give me?'"
[00:12:15] Women don't feel as though we can converse. We feel as though we'll lose our partners, we feel as though we'll make our relationships less stable. And it's very scary if we're in situations where you cannot communicate with the people who we are intimate with. And it's across the board. And women feel very depressed because of that. They'll come in a hundred times, "can you check me for this?" "Can you check me for that?" You want me to check you a zillion times in a month --and I'm okay with it--but it's because you refuse to ask any questions that could potentially save your life. It's scary.
Jessica: [00:12:48] Yeah that's a huge deal too--if women don't feel like they can be in open communication with their doctor that's one problem. But If they can't do that with their partner--or even with themselves on some level--that too is affecting their health and their inner world in a way that you can't necessarily fix. But you can at least try to empower them to ask the right people those questions.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:13:12] And you'd be surprised. A lot of times some of my patients are like, "I'm going to ask!" And maybe they'll feel the strength because they're there [in my office], and they'll text they're partner right there, and the partner will be like "She's absolutely correct. I'll go get tested this week." So It's not the males. It's the mindset and the self-esteem of the women.
Jessica: [00:13:31] In a lot of your videos you do speak about your goal to educate women about safe sex in getting tested. Even If you're in a super committed monogamous relationship, you still both are responsible for your own health and in checking up on each other and on yourself. So what are some of the key women's health issues or aspects of our bodies that many don't know about or pay attention to--or don't even know to get tested for?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:14:00] Well first of all, vaginitis and sexually transmitted diseases--women are kind of up on those things. But when it comes to paps, women will say, "Well I haven't been to the doctor since I had a baby. I haven't had any problems." No, we need to take a look! "Do your ovaries look okay? Is your uterus enlarged? Do you have discharge or an odor which you perceive at this point is normal but it's not? Have you had a breast exam? Do you have a family history of breast cancer? Because if you do, then you need to be tested and you may need to be tested to see if you carry the gene..." And different things like that for all-around health. I think we've gotten to a place of, "I only need to see a gynecologist if I think he's cheating... or if I think he's had sex with somebody else, then I'm going to go to the gynecologist." No, no! This is something standard that you do no matter what type of relationship you're in. And I think women are starting to get that but will shy away if they can.
Jessica: [00:14:56] Yeah and it seems like a lot of women won't come in unless they have a problem, like what you're saying. Or they look at the gynecologist as a sort of specialized secondary kind of doctor... But really [gynecology is related] to the foundation of the whole health of a woman because it [meaning the vaginal area] is our center, literally.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:15:17] But I think a lot of it is more emotional than physical. Because, understand that I'm the person who can make the reality of something not okay in your relationship hit you right in the face! People are not ready sometimes to accept what they may know. So they stay away.
Jessica: [00:15:35] Yes, and we do get signals every month, that is if we have a regular menstrual cycle. Many adult women still don't seem to know what is happening or why that happens, what it means, or where their uterus even is and how to take care of themselves! So even that lack of understanding of what is what's normal for you personally--why do you think that is? What do you think about that, that some women don't really even know [these things about their own bodies]?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:16:10] I think a lot of it is how you were raised and how you were trained. And some mothers are just like, "It's fine. It doesn't matter as long as you're not having a problem. You don't bother it. You don't touch it. You don't need to deal with it at all." And I think a lot of women did not grow up in an open home, so they don't talk about it much. If you do not trust your mom… or whoever you grew up with doesn't have a relationship that's open enough with you for you to say, "Hey, I have a bump here. I have an odor,” or “something is in my panties,” then you are going to be terribly uncomfortable saying it to a stranger. And so those are the women who completely stay away, and they shy away, and they are not receptive to learning because they've never learned.
Jessica: [00:16:58] Yes, so I wondered too. If we are unable to learn a lot of our normal body functions from our family, I would hope that in the community—or even in what you do with private practice—that we could have community outreach programs or other public/social forums where you speak to women more about, "Hey what's going on in your body? How are you feeling? What's going on with you?" A lot of women don't have that luxury of being asked that by their own family members. So I think it's really great as a health practitioner that you are reaching out, outside of the office, where people think that’s just where they go when something's wrong.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:17:36] Right. I think that the key is making medicine fun, making people not so afraid of it. I mean, making people not feel like, "Oh my God, I am going to get an awful diagnosis, some awful news." And some people really feel like that and they'll tell me. So, I make the conversation fun, I'm funny. We have a great time, we laugh, we joke. It gets loud, it gets quiet, I get tearful and I just want to make it relatable. And if people will relate, then they'll inquire. But if it's something they can't relate to, they're going to be hands off. And so that's what I'm trying to change.
Jessica: [00:18:10] I know and it’s huge. So, speaking of trying to change things, I notice on your website that you also offer herbal vaginal steam treatments, as well as customized vaginal cleansing treatment. Can you tell us what those are? Because I'm sure that takes a lot to coax people into that world of treatment.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:18:27] Well believe it or not people are more interested than not, and I think that the vaginal steam is picking up a lot of “steam” and a lot of interest. But I'm a little bit afraid because when it comes to the vaginal steam, it is very important that you know which herbs you're using and why. You have people that will grab three or four herbs and they're packing them together and they're selling them and saying, "Here is your vaginal steam on the go." The way that the vaginal steam functions... herbs are not without consequence. So I would implore anyone, if you're going to have a vaginal steam, one of the most important things that you need to do is make sure you go somewhere where you know which herbs they're using, and you need to make sure that these people are very well versed in this.
[00:19:22] When I first started with the vaginal steaming, I had to learn a little bit about it: “What is that? Why is that important?” I actually went to have one. There is a Korean bath house here in Atlanta, and I am like "What is this you people speak of?" And people are like, "Oh it's amazing, you have to go." And I am like, "Okay." So I went and I'm like, "Okay, this is pretty cool." Because I was interested, I [asked], "What herbs are here?" I got the list of herbs that were there, and I started to do research, and thank God, at the time, my assistant was Asian, and she was actually able to read a lot of the information for me. I picked out the 19 herbs and I looked at why we use those herbs and I found that there were four others that we needed to use. So, with the vaginal steam in my office, we used 23 different herbs, but they all have medicinal purpose. And people think, "Oh well, when you sit on steam, it gets to the vulva or the labia and it gets to the inside of the vagina as well." It does not get to the uterus, let's be clear on that. Now you say, "Well how does it affect the uterus?" It absolutely affects the uterus but it's not the steam that does it. The vagina is very porous and so if something is absorbed into the vagina, it's absorbed directly into the bloodstream. And that is how it has its effect on the uterus because those herbs are absorbed into the bloodstream and then they have their effect on the uterus. So that is why it is very important to know what herbs are being used in the vaginal steam because you don't want to have an uptake of herbs that are one, not going to work in your favor or two, not work at all.
Jessica: [00:21:01] So do you then customize which herbs you use with which patients or what their needs are? Or do you do the same 21 herbs blend for each patient?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:21:12] For the most part the blend is the same except for two specific herbs depending on what issue you may or may not have. So one herb is specifically for vaginal tightening and it's really interesting because it works very well, so you can only use it for the last 10 or 15 minutes of the steam or the patient will have a really tight vagina. And so a lot of women like that, but I am like, "We can't go overboard." But it's really fun to say, "Okay well, what's the issue you're having? What are we doing? What are we dealing with?" And I always tell patients, "Call me back, let me know how it went. Tell me what you think." Nobody has been displeased yet.
Jessica: [00:21:53] How long have you been offering this as a service?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:21:57] Probably about six months after I started to practice. We've probably been doing it about five or six years now. And a lot of patients who have recurrences, I let them know, "Listen, if you have a recurrence, if you have vaginitis, if you have an infection and we have to treat that, we can go into prevention mode and we can help you in that way." Well, herbs in general, in my opinion, are not for treatment of a problem. They are for maintenance and prevention, not necessarily for treatment. Once the problem has developed you have to treat the problem but then we can maintain and hopefully prevent it from having to keep [coming] back. Patients are like, "I get treated for vaginitis every month, I just have a standing prescription." I'm like, "That is crazy. That is ridiculous. That is a failure of care. That's not a good thing." And so this [treatment] has decreased that significantly.
Jessica: [00:22:57] So people that have bacterial vaginitis or any other sort of bacterial infection, when would you do the vaginal steam protocol with them?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:23:08] It can be almost anything even if patients tell me they have super painful periods. If patients tell me that their periods are irregular, they have two days of spotting, then it stops and then their period starts, I used it for those patients. Patients who have recurrent herpes outbreaks, I use it for those patients as well. So, I use the treatment for most patients unless you come in and say, "No, I'm good, I'm great. Life is good. I need my pill” or “not so much.” I just want to get checked, make sure my cancer screen is good and I am out of here." Then fine. Sometimes even those patients are like, "I want to experience it, I want a deep cleansing or vaginal tightening." And so it's not necessarily going to be looked at as harmful for most patients.
Jessica: [00:23:51] Do you have a separate treating room that you usually do this with your patients or do you have a group treatment room? What does that look like?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:24:07] Interestingly enough, I have a room in the practice, it has a half wall up. So if you and a friend were to come or if another patient were to have [the vaginal steam], there's a half wall so you can't see anything. Obviously, we have special equipment for it. It can get pretty warm, so we make sure we give you a nice cold alkaline water while you're having your steam and in the room the lights are low; we have jazz playing, and we just don't want you to focus on anything else but you, just for that hour, focus on you. That's the environment, we have like a spa area where we do it in the practice.
Jessica: [00:24:42] And how long are the treatments for?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:24:45] The treatments are generally about 40 to 45 minutes and then if you're a candidate for the vaginal tightening, we'll sprinkle that on for the last 15 minutes. So, we'll give about 15 minutes of that alone. So, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
Jessica: [00:25:07] Have you had good feedback on these herbs that are used for tightness? I've never heard of that before.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:25:14] Yes, it's really interesting. It’s called maca powder. Yes, the patients tend to love it. They're like, "Oh my gosh Doc." It is really interesting because I'm like, "Are they just saying this because they don't want to hurt my feelings." But one of my closest friends, she's a cynic about everything. She's like, "Yeah." So she has a little bit of a low sex drive and she did a steam. Before the steam was over, she was literally calling her husband, "Where are you? I need to see you. I need you to be on lunch right now." And I thought it was so funny. I am like, "Are you serious?" And she is like, "Yes." So, I've gotten all good results.
Jessica: [00:25:50] Well it's true and I mean, we were talking before about the mental disconnect between women and their womb space and their vagina, just anything going on down there, people are just like, "I don't want to hear about it", until something starts screaming at me and then I go to the doctor and get it fixed. From my experience with steaming which I have done at home not in a spa setting and sometimes not with any herbs at all, just the experience of the steam itself, it just helps make that connection immediately. Kind of what you're saying too, just having the vagina being very porous and being very absorbed too, when you introduce steam to that area there is this natural opening that happens. So I imagine too, even just for your friend, there is this switch that's flips, where people are like, "Oh this is the space in my body that needs attention."
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:26:39] Right. Absolutely. And it's so interesting. Like I said, for various reasons we're very detached from it, be it purposeful or just because we're just not noticing that everyday life is happening. And we're only using it for a few things. If I should need it for sex, if I should need it for tampons, if I should need it during the restroom hours, but the rest of the time it is covered up, it's pulled together, it's tightly wound and it's what makes us vulnerable. So we ignore it and the world, and we can't. I think we'll remain so much healthier when we accept it, we take care of it and take care of ourselves as a whole in association with it.
Jessica: [00:27:20] And you were saying too that the steam, it is up for debate [as to] whether or not it enters the uterus and you're saying, it does not. But what happens is the medicinal properties of the herbs enters the bloodstream through the vagina and it's that medicine that you are taking in, in a subtler way than taking a heavy dose of an antibiotic or something like that. But it's still a softer, more gentle approach in terms of medicine, from what I understand.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:27:57] Exactly, and that's really it. In order for it to actually reach the uterus, it would have to be forced air and that doesn't happen. But actually, like I said, directly into the bloodstream is the best way. It's really interesting. In the 1960s, what people would do in order not to fail the breathalyzer, they would dip tampons in vodka and then insert a tampon, so they would be inebriated, but all of their testing would be negative. So, we've learned that the vagina is extremely porous, so when things are taken in through the vagina it's almost an immediate effect.
Jessica: [00:28:36] So you were saying also using [the vaginal steam] to alleviate certain menstrual discomfort and cramping before your period, would you recommend steaming before your menstrual cycle and after, or is there an ideal time that you would steam for relief of cramps?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:28:55] The only time that I would say, "Do not steam", is during your actual cycle. Even leading up to, it would be good for settling down the uterus. You have to understand, even with the cervix opening a little bit, just like things are coming out things can also go up. So, we have mild vaginal infections that can irritate our cervix and irritate the lower part of our uterus. So I think it's an absolutely fine thing to do. Once a week is even fine, I believe.
Jessica: [00:29:24] What do you think it is about steaming that helps with menstrual cramps?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:29:31] What happens when the uterus cramps, it literally is the muscles and the lining shearing and pulling off of the uterus which is why we feel the cramping. Certain herbs that we use during the steaming can actually help the lining pull off easier, which is going to decrease your cramping—not totally alleviate them, but will significantly decrease your cramping.
Jessica: [00:29:58] Right, what I understand of cramps, that really is the uterus contracting to help move any stagnation or lining that hasn't been moving your menstrual cycle out. So that's usually where our cramps are. So, I imagine the herbal properties plus even just bringing heat to that area itself. I think of when I'm congested and doing a facial steam, your nasal passage is also a mucous membrane and that's a really great way to break down mucous. So, I imagine it works the same way in the vagina, if there's stagnant matter in there, just introducing heat to that area can help the natural process of sloughing it off and out.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:30:44] And that's actually one of the major properties of the vaginal steam, is that it just helps the body do what it normally does. In Chinese medicine, if you do have infertility issues, they say there's cold in the area and there is stagnation there. What they will do is warming herbs or they'll do warming treatments to warm that area, so that, like you said, there is no more stagnation. We know that calories heat and bring on motion and it's the same thing. So, it's just basic science concepts, and yet people say, "Oh this doesn't work." We’ve known for centuries that this is the science but we're just applying it to a different method.
Jessica: [00:31:27] What do you think? I know a lot of gynecologists that are anti-vaginal steaming and will say, "Oh, it messes with the PH of the vagina or it messes with the microbiome, the natural cycle of what the vagina already does on its own and we shouldn't mess with it in this way or that it's very invasive."
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:31:45] Well, this is not a shot at anybody because if you get 50 doctors in a room, you get 51 opinions. The reality of the situation is we are not topically doing anything, we're not directly affecting anything. And to be perfectly honest, if you have the right assortment of herbs it doesn't bother the PH of anything. So I disagree with that. But, if it were a topical treatment, if it were a cream, if it were something oral, then that's something different and we can negatively affect certain situations if we do things that we're not supposed to do. But with the steam, I don't believe that's the case and I haven't seen that. And like I said vaginitis is my [specialization], so I don't treat it the way most doctors treat it. I treat it in a different way. We kill the infection and we get it taken care of and then we maintain and prevent. So, I don't see that. I disagree.
Jessica: [00:32:45] Yes, I know. I feel the same way, but I also agree that we're all learning together, and people's opinions are deserving of a platform and we're here to talk about it. We try to unpack it and figure it out. Definitely. And I think a part of what also seems to come up or what you talk about too with vaginitis, is that we use all these off the shelf products like body washes and soaps that are ridden with chemicals that really only make that bad bacteria thrive and reproduce. Or even douching, for example, which seems like a much more aggressive way to try to clean out the vagina and this doesn't seem to be at all in that same category.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:33:35] No, not in any way, shape or form. First of all when we have douching, it drives me absolutely bananas, because when we douche, oftentimes women are looking to get rid of things. They're getting rid of odor, they're getting rid of discharge. With the vagina, you have to be very careful because unless you are trained and skilled, you don't necessarily know which discharge is bad versus which is normal. If it smells bad, it's bad. If it feels bad, it's bad. If there's a lot of it, that's bad as well. But again, a trained eye needs to be able to tell you because the discharge is the vagina cleansing itself. It's a self-cleansing mechanism. But if there is an issue that means there's an infection. I don't care if you douche, I don't care what you do, you can perfume it away for 24 hours, but it's coming back because there's an infection. So you have to understand the underlying cause in order to truly fix it. And I'm not a fan of anything fragrant, no bubble bath, no body wash, I don’t care who made it! No perfume soap, no deodorant soap. I can't say any names, so I will say no feminine washes, no wipes, none of that. Just your basic white conditioning soap, that is it. So, as few chemicals as we can get. Some people will say, "Well the black soaps are natural, this soap is natural." Yes, but bad things are natural too. So you have to be very careful [with] what you use and how you use it because how the rest of your body responds is different from how your vagina responds.
Jessica: [00:35:05] Yes, I know. That makes a lot of sense and again too introducing steam or some of these herbs that are literally coming straight off the plant to the steam bath. That feels a little bit like something we can wrap our heads around versus going to Walgreens and seeing all these words that we can't pronounce and putting that near one of our most coveted parts of our body, just seems like counterintuitive for sure.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:35:31] Very much so. I always [say to] my patients, "If you have an eye infection, can you fix that over the counter at Target?” No. "If you have an ear infection can you...?” No."If you have a skin infection?" No. So why do you think if you have a vaginal infection, there's something on aisle five that can fix you? No, it doesn't work that way. I think it's just a matter of women having to understand that this is a very intimate and delicate area, with a very delicate balance. And once you understand the do's and don'ts, it's pretty easy.
Jessica: [00:35:59] I need to ask you too about IUDs. I don't have one personally so I'm not even totally clear on how they work. But I get a lot of questions about steaming and IUDs and if that's safe and I know there's a lot of different kinds of IUDs, plastic versus copper or other metals and if that could have a negative effect with steaming?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:36:22] Well that's a great question. So when it comes to IUDs actually, they're all plastic and so eventually the copper one has some copper wires infused into it but they're all plastic. No, you're not going to get electrocuted. The IUD is not going to heat up and hurt you, it doesn't work that way. Again, the steam doesn't reach the level of where the IUD is because it’s not in the vagina, it's in the uterus. The way the IUD actually works, I think it's an amazing method of birth control too. It's very popular in Europe, not so much here because we kind of have the “one thing bad happened to my friend and now it's an awful thing to do” mentality. And I always correct patients with it. I actually like it because there's no circulating hormone in your body at all. Even if there are hormones in the IUD it actually works on the inside of the womb. It does not circulate throughout the body if placed properly. Now, people have a lot of problems with IUDs because when they're placed, the doctor, the midwife, the nurse practitioner, whoever pops it in, they pop it in and they are like, "You are good." Nobody ever checks the location of it. So what I try to make a point to do is when I put it in, I get an ultrasound to make sure that it's placed properly—because if it is placed properly your likelihood of having a problem is very slim. So IUDs, I believe, are amazing and I think most people should have them. They have their audience and some people are like, "No, not you." But for the most part they're absolutely wonderful and they're absolutely safe to steam.
Jessica: [00:37:53] Right. So you're saying that because the steam doesn't actually go through the cervix and into the womb space, that the temperature from that activity wouldn't in any way affect the IUD.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:38:06] In order to affect the uterus the temperature would have to be way higher. It would burn the vagina and the vulva way faster than it would the uterus. So that's not an issue at all.
Jessica: [00:38:18] From your own personal experience with vaginal steaming, because you're saying the first time you did this you were taken to a Korean spa, what was that like? Were you with a group of people? And what was the practitioner like there?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:38:30] It was very interesting. It was a little odd to be perfectly honest because it was in a group. It was in a room and I think it was maybe about five or six women and we all had the gowns or the robes on and we were sitting on the steam pots and it was really interesting. I guess everyone was like, "Oh okay, I feel that. Okay. That was strange." And the practitioner, there was no way to really ask her questions that you felt she could understand, which I felt was a little bit of a disadvantage, but it was pretty cool.
Jessica: [00:39:05] And so even for you on a personal level, how did you feel?
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:39:10] To be perfectly honest you feel fresh. When it's happening you just feel very fresh, you feel rejuvenated. Interestingly enough, it's not just the physical feeling, you actually feel “in touch” again. You feel like maybe this was something that you were ignoring. Now you feel like, “okay this was awesome and now I feel like I'm at my best and feel like I'm living at my optimal being.” It's very difficult to explain but you feel whole, you feel clean, you feel fresh, and you feel revived.
Jessica: [00:39:46] And I think it's so great what you are saying. Just finding this out at a Korean spa and from my research of how far it dates back in some of these ancient cultures, not even just in Korea but other parts of Africa, South America, Mexico. It's very interesting as a tradition. So many different groups of women around the world have practiced this. Some for post-partum, some for very specific moments along the trajectory of womanhood, but I think foundationally it's like what you're describing. It is like, "Oh I feel fresh and rejuvenated and back in my power, connected to one of the most powerful parts of my body that can bring new life onto the planet." Like your first experience as a student, just seeing that and knowing I want to be a part of that thing. It's really powerful.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:40:41] It's very interesting. Anyone who hasn't had it done they should absolutely do, just as an experience. But it is a very empowering thing, you're right. For Mayan cultures, African cultures, Indian cultures, Asian cultures, it's a very common procedure that we generally don't do here in our country or on this continent in general. But it's very well studied and women all over the world definitely participate.
Jessica: [00:41:16] I think it's so great too that you are technically a western doctor but you're very open to starting to cross pollinate with these more ancient, ritualistic, holistic health practices. I think that's really great because a lot of people might shy away from them because they seem so alternative. But I think as medical practitioners to be able to just have more of an open mind to other ways of caring for ourselves is really important. Even what you were saying [about] cultivating that awareness between a woman and that part of her body, I'm sure from all the women that you work with over the course of your career, you realize that that foundational connection is really important, and steaming is a quick and easy conduit to [say], "Hey, remember you have a vagina. This is what it feels like.”
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:42:08] Absolutely and it's important to people. And so, if what is important to your patients is not important to you then they won't respect you. Part of being respectful of my patients is experiencing what they're curious about. I want to be able to talk to you and explain and have a conversation with and basically guide you in something that is either curious to you or important to you. And you can't do that being close minded.
Jessica: [00:42:38] That's awesome. Thank you Dr. Tosha. Those are all the questions I have. I really appreciate your time and expertise and again openness and realness about all of these things that we're constantly learning more about. How do people stay in touch with you? I found your YouTube channel but I'm sure you have others.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:43:02] I do. I have a YouTube channel, you found that, it's Real Deal with Dr. Tosha. I have a podcast that we do, and that’s Dr. Tosha After Dark. My Instagram handle is @blackdocruth and my Twitter is @askdrtosha. You can join me on any of those, send me messages. We definitely do reply, and we'd love to hear from you.
Jessica: [00:43:24] Awesome thank you again. And yes, we'll continue to stay in touch and do this work together.
Dr. Tosha Rogers: [00:43:30] Awesome, we sure will. It was great talking to you. Nice to finally meet you. Bye.
Founder: Steamychick.com and Peristeam Hydrotherapy Institute
Cutting Edge Vaginal Steaming Research and Case Studies from Thousands of Women
Jessica: [00:00:03] All right. Hi everyone. It's me Jessica, co-founder of Leiamoon and today I couldn't be more excited to interview an amazing woman I've been calling for a long time, Keli Garza a.k.a. Steamy Chick. Kelly founded the Peristeam Hydrotherapy Institute to train practitioners in the use of vaginal steam for menstrual and reproductive health, and to further research on the gynecological benefits reported by hundreds of case studies--case studies that she's seen too personally. She, along with The Fourth Trimester author Kimberly Johnson, recently announced an initiative to fund studies on the benefits of vaginal steaming for postpartum women, to prove its effectiveness. I immediately reached out to her the instant I got that email. So now, here we are. Keli, thanks for being here.
Keli Garza: [00:00:55] Thank you so much Jessica.
Jessica: [00:00:59] This is awesome. I guess we'll start by introducing you a bit further. Can you tell us a bit more about your background, where you are in the world and what you're up to?
Keli Garza: [00:01:10] My background, I have a degree in International Development and so I've always been interested in research and international topics. I learned about vagina steaming in 2011 from Marcia Lopez who is a Mayan abdominal womb healer. What I learned about it, she said that vaginal steaming was from Guatemala. I left there, I had that information and I didn't actually use it right away. I didn't think that I needed. But a year later, I had a menstrual cycle issue and I remembered vaginal steaming. So I started to look everywhere online that I could find it and I found that there was vaginal steaming at a Korean spa and it was called Chai Yok. I immediately became intrigued. I was like, "Wait a minute, I heard it was from Guatemala." Now I'm learning that the Koreans do it. I went to the Korean sauna and I had a vaginal steam. Within 24 hours, my menstrual cycle issue was resolved. My period had been missing for several months and I wasn't pregnant. It came back immediately after doing the vaginal steam session. I was pretty impressed, and I had been talking to the Korean spa owner and she was telling me all about the practice of vaginal steaming in her country and that it is used as a preventative method. It should be done regularly on a monthly basis in order to prevent any problems. So I was really fascinated by that. But I also had some questions. Where was it originally from--Guatemala or Korea? You know, who taught who?
[00:02:55] Over time, I found over 40 countries where vaginal steaming is practiced. So I've concluded that vaginal steaming is a universal practice. It appears that women have been doing that since the beginning of time. It's a natural method used to treat different issuesm, and important at different times in a woman's life, such as postpartum. Somewhere along the way, I continued to use vaginal steaming, then I started to refer it to my friends, I started to make supplies and herbs, and then I became "Steamy Chick."
Jessica: [00:03:38] Wow, that so great. How many years has Steamy Chick been around?
Keli Garza: [00:03:47] I would say since 2013. In 2013, one of my friends was complaining about her period. She had ten days long heavy periods with clots, cramps and every other issue, headaches, depression, all kinds of issues. So, I was like, "Why don't you do a vaginal steam?" I told her about it and she said, "I am convinced. I want to do it but I don't want to make a chair, take off the seat and figure out how to make a vaginal steam sauna." She says, "I'm going to give you 100 bucks, could you make it for me?" I was just like, "Okay, I guess." So that was my very first customer. She had really incredible results, she steamed three times in a row and she had her period and instead of it being ten days long, it was five days long. Instead of having heavy bleeding, she had medium flow bleeding and a lot of the other symptoms were gone. So, she had such remarkable results, she told her friends, people that I didn't know. Then they reached out to me to also make steam saunas and herbs for them. I didn't actually ever decide to start a vaginal steam company but [people] never stopped coming after that. Those women had their results, they told their friends and so people were contacting me from all over the country within a couple of months, asking if I could make their vaginal steam saunas and herbs.
Jessica: [00:05:20] I love that piece of it too, that it is sort of a ripple effect of women sharing information, which is proof in and of itself that it must have been working for so many of them, that they're telling their friends, sisters and children and then they're coming back to you and that within just a matter of months that many people were super interested in learning more.
Keli Garza: [00:05:42] Yes, I was reluctant the whole while. I was like, "I don't want to talk about vaginas. I don't want to talk about periods." This company was built out of a need because they just never stopped coming. Then somebody published a blog and that went viral. From there, the company has basically been growing at over 400% every year since it started. It grows so fast, it expands so fast that I'm racing to keep up, ever since then.
Jessica: [00:06:19] How many women would you say you've consulted over this five year period?
Keli Garza: [00:06:24] I worked with over 773 women one on one. At first, when I would give women these vaginal steams supplies--in 2013 there was no information about vaginal steaming online except for, if you Google the word chai-yok, you could find two or three articles on Korean steaming. So nobody knew how to use it or what to do and I also didn't have any instruction. So what I would do is, I would just dig through it and I would think about whatever period problems they had. I used traditional Chinese medicine. I'm not a traditional Chinese medicine doctor but I was a traditional Chinese medicine patient. I regularly went to an acupuncturist and had learned that there are certain signs of your period that tell you certain things about your health. So, one of them, for example, is brown blood. Brown blood is a sign of stagnation and the brown blood in the period is like old residue build up. Let's just take that, I knew that. So when people would tell me about their period, I would just think it through and then figure out what the right herbs and vaginal steam protocol would be for them. I would do that with everybody that I gave supplies, just naturally, I would give them a consultation. Using my research background, I would record their period, when they started and then I would track how it changed after each period with their vaginal steaming. And so, I was able to get a lot of information and then see a lot of similarities. For example, one of the things that I noticed is that when people do the steaming before their period, if they had stagnation, if they had brown blood or clots, then what would happen is they would steam and then when their period [came] they'd have a lot more clots. It was like this cleanse. Then the next period after that, usually they would have a completely clean period. I was also able to realize that the period isn't a period at all. I don't know what that term actually means. I know anthropologists in the 1800s used to refer to women [having] a periodic illness and I think that's where we get the word period. I was able to understand that, in fact, the period is a uterine cleanse. So I started to use the term uterine cleanse to educate women, "Okay we want to increase and get a better uterine cleanse", and so forth.
Jessica: [00:09:40] I was just so shocked by the period being a periodic illness.
Keli Garza: [00:09:49] It thought it was an indicator of the time. Like, there's a period of time and then we get a period again.
Jessica: [00:09:56] You were just scratching the surface essentially of what really happen.
Keli Garza: [00:10:00] You know what I found it out. I want to a talk by Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy. She is a fantastic scholar. She is from the Hoopa nation in Northern California. She has been debunking some myths that anthropologists spread about her tribe. I attended a talk and she gave a quote from the anthropologist that was talking about how women have a "periodic illness." The anthropologist was so disgusted by it. He just said, "Women have their time of periodic illness." It made me realize I had heard that before and that was something that was said back in the day, and I think that's actually where the term period come from. I haven't been able to [officially] link our use of the word period back to that, but it seems to be a natural evolution of that term.
Jessica: [00:11:08] It's interesting what you're saying too. the period is actually an indicator of health for a woman. It's sort of the fundamental piece of the core of a woman's well-being. So, if we don't have this regular, what we're calling, average menstrual flow, cycle, number of days within that 28 day cycle, that is the first indication that something's off or there's something that I need to shift or change. It sounds like through your work, through all these case studies that's exactly what you're finding. A piece of that too that you were finding was, there really is what you were calling the perfect period. You could talk a little more on that.
Keli Garza: [00:11:56] Okay, yes. Another thing is that I also surveyed women's period. So I've surveyed over 2400 women just to share what their periods were like and I've gained a lot of information about periods then as well. Like what they look like, what doctors are saying about periods and so on. So that's where my knowledge base comes from.
[00:12:18] When I worked with that very first customer I told you about, she had a different period. I was missing my period. I didn't have a period before I started vaginal steaming. After I vaginal steamed, my period came back and I had this really nice, clean, fresh red period and it was four days long, medium red flow and I didn't seem to have... I get PMS. I get angry with everybody. I didn't have that anymore. I noticed that the PMS was gone away. I used to also get hormonal acne, I noticed that that had gone away. So I had this really pleasant period. So now, when I was working with my friend, I didn't have any expectations. I just wanted to help her get rid of the clots and cramps that she was having. Her period went from ten days to five days and her very first period after vaginal steaming, she had a lot more clots and old stuff that cleared out, even blacks [00:13:33] ____. [0.3] I was like, that's probably good. Despite all that the bleeding had gone down. I advised her to continue the steam. She steamed again and when she had her next period there was only a tiny little bit of clots and her next period after that, she had a completely clean period. It was four days long, medium red, medium flow and it began and ended on fresh red blood. I was just like, "Wow, that's my period". That's what my period looks like. I just noted it to myself but I was actually pretty weirded out by it. I would have never predicted it. In fact, it was so unbelievable to me, that I didn't voice it. I didn't talk about it until years later, after I had observed the same phenomenon happening with woman after woman and client after client, who would coming to me for vaginal steaming. When women do vaginal steaming for two to three months, in some cases it could take as long as six months, sometimes longer, but it's usually two to three months, what happens is... Another note, with my period survey, what I observe was that over 99 percent of women had signs of uterine stagnation of old residue buildup. So we're all walking around with this old residue in our womb. What it looked like was that when women were clearing out with vaginal steaming, they all seemed to have a very similar period; four days long, fresh red blood, begins and ends on fresh red blood and medium flow. So, at a certain point, I just decided to own it and realize, you know what, this is the perfect period and I can expect that when somebody does vaginal steaming, as long as they keep at it for two or three months, as long as they use the right herbs and they do it in the right way, they're going to result in this perfect period. So let's show that, that what's you do. When I'm working with anybody, no matter what, if they don't have that perfect period, I continue to work with them until they get it. And there are very few cases where I can't get somebody to that perfect period. The only time that there is failure, is when the person doesn't want to do the vaginal steam. In some cases it requires steaming every day. And some of them, it requires steaming before the period. Sometimes people forget or they might be traveling. Usually the times when it doesn't work is when somebody hasn't managed to do [the vaginal steam].
Jessica: [00:16:15] Over the years, you've figured out the protocol for each of these different types of conditions that a woman might be dealing with, to help get them to recalibrate to what we're calling the perfect period.
Keli Garza: [00:16:30] It doesn't matter if they have missing periods, or if they are starting with 10 days of heavy flow. What about women who are on their period? The longest case I've had was somebody who was like, "I've been on my period for 16 months. I've been bleeding every single day for almost a year and a half. Please help me.' Even her, I was able to get her to a perfect period. So, after working with over 700 women, I was getting so many e-mails and messages from women all around the world asking for help, that there was really no way for me to help all of these women. So, I stopped doing personal consultations and I referred that out to Raquel Lemus who is somebody I had trained and taught how to use vaginal steam therapy and she's also a licensed midwife. I started to refer all of the consultations to her and I started to train practitioners on these protocols because there's just no way that I can help all of the women.
[00:17:37] One thing that really became clear over time, is that women aren't getting the care that they need from the doctors. Some of these situations, doctors were aware of what was going on, but they either didn't have the tools to help or they didn't see it as something that they should help. So in that case, where the woman was bleeding for 16 months, she had been working closely with her doctor and he just couldn't get the bleeding to stopped. She stopped bleeding within 24 hours [of having the vaginal steam] and has never had any bleeding between periods since. She just bleeds when she gets her period.
Jessica: [00:18:36] It's so fascinating too. You're giving women these protocols, the steam, which is unique. It's whatever [the client's] current situation is, but it's still a practice that she takes home and she's responsible for doing this self care, which is also really different a lot of times, than seeing a doctor. Not that this is wrong or bad. I'm not trying to make this divisive statement, but I think what's so great about it is, you're empowering women and other women as facilitators too to understand how this works, that it does work and that you can do it really simply from home, the same way that women presumably have been doing this for centuries and passing down that knowledge. So if anything, you have rediscovered it by a magical synthesis of all these things going on in your life five years ago and now it's spreading like wildfire and it's working and that's why so many people must be tuning into it.
Keli Garza: [00:19:31] It's so cool. We're taking our health into our own hands and it's so easy. One of my nicknames for the vaginal steam sauna is a little gynecologist in a box, because what I noticed with all of the issues that women go to a gynecologist for, [after] working with 700 women, I was like, "Oh every single one of those issues, vaginal steaming can address. So this is just as good as going to the gynecologist, if not better because it's got to address a lot of other problems.
[00:19:57] Now, I'm not saying that gynecologists are not useful, but as with everything, if you can address the root of the problem and if you can address it naturally, why not try that first because gynecology is a field of medicine based on surgery. In addition to surgery, they also use antibiotics, the artificial hormones. That's basically the options that you have. So, if you don't want those options and if you're not interested in the side effects that go along with those options, why not try something natural.
[00:20:33] I remember what I was saying before. The lady who had been bleeding for 14 months, she had been working closely with a doctor. I had another woman told me that she started spontaneous bleeding. She was bleeding so heavy that she was changing her pad every six to seven times per hour and she still couldn't keep the blood in. She was just flooding. So she went to her gynecologist as she was distraught about the situation because this had never happened before. She didn't know how to get it to stop and she was troubled. I mean, it's a problem when you're bleeding and you're not supposed to; It wasn't her period. This woman, she was in her 40s. The gynecologist told her, "You're in your 40s so this should be expected. As you're moving closer towards menopause, there's going to be unpredictability." He said, "But obviously you're very distraught by it." So he offered her and he wrote a prescription for anti-depressants and he sent her home with no idea of what to do about this flood bleeding.
Jessica: [00:21:55] That's so depressing. I know. It's either that or hysterectomy too. Just saying, oh I know, we'll just remove this entire life giving organ, that is the epicenter of being a woman. I think for so many women that may be the only answer, but in a case like that, definitely not. In a case like that too, she's not depressed. She's dealing with something that's physically very uncomfortable and needs a solution for that, not another Band-Aid.
Keli Garza: [00:22:36] That is very irresponsible care. And a hysterectomy, you have to be aware, if you are in your 30s that's when doctors start talking about hysterectomy. Especially, if you're in your thirties and have children. I was actually really surprised. I was giving a talk and Linda Alexander was there. She's on Instagram as [00:23:02] @moomoomentor. [0.0] She has one kid. She said, "I was telling him that I have cramping, I am having this issue or that issue." And he said, "Well, if you're done having kids, we could just do a hysterectomy." She was thinking, you know what, I just want to address these issues. I don't necessarily want to have a hysterectomy. We were in a room filled with 50 women and I was shocked. Everybody else was like, "Oh my doctor gave me that option too." "Oh my gosh, that's what my doctor said." It was this really eye opening experience. What we realized is that, for cramps, ovarian cysts, fibroids, infections, heavy bleeding, for all of these different issues, doctors were actually recommending hysterectomies. The way that they were recommending them was very interesting. They were saying, "Oh, then you don't have anything to worry about. You won't have any troubles after that." They weren't making it very.... "It's just this small." "It's just going to take you a couple of days in the hospital then you'll be able to go home and get back on your feet." Number one, they are making it seem like it was a small procedure and number two, they were making it seem like it was a good preventative health care method that would get rid of the problem and also prevent any further issues down the road. After that, I started to pay more attention to hysterectomy and what was going on. The last thing that I learned for the women that I have worked with, who had hysterectomies was, none of their doctors explained that they would go into early menopause, their hormones would go out of balance, they would start having hot flashes immediately, even if they were in their 20s. None of the doctors told them about those side effects as a result of doing a hysterectomy. A lot of women that I work with who have done hysterectomies are actually a little bit shell shocked by some of the things that happened as a result of hysterectomies that they were not given any information about.
Jessica: [00:25:17] So a lot of times, the symptoms that they [had] and got the hysterectomy for, does not go away. If not, they are almost impounded by having this major surgery. This [vaginal steam] is noninvasive besides a bit of vapors.
Keli Garza: [00:25:41] Then the media have the nerve to say, "Oh, this could be dangerous." Well hysterectomies could be dangerous, okay. You have to sign a waiver that you won't sue if you die. You know what I mean? You have to sign a waiver even if they are going to use anesthesia on you, that they won't be held responsible in case you die. These things have really big side effects and it's not that women don't have the side effects, they do. I'm the one who sees these women when they are completely out of options. They've done everything the doctor said and now they're completely out of options. That's when certain women start to really look at alternative stuff. You know one thing that I was telling Kimberly Johnson, my colleague who I am doing the study with, one of the things I was telling her is, these women have done nothing wrong. They actually did what was right. They had a problem they were concerned about and they sought help. What happens after that? If they get a hysterectomy, because they had cramps or if they got put on the birth control pill? I had one woman, she had heavy bleeding and she was put on the birth control pill. Both her husband and the doctor were pressuring her into it. She wanted to do vaginal steaming. She started, they ridiculed her. She ended up going on to the pill. One year later she contacted me and she had to go off the pill because of liver damage. You know what I mean? There are real side effects and repercussions and it's not that they don't happen. What I do find is we're not aware, we are not discussing it openly, we tend to keep all of it private. But when we compare notes, it's very clear that the options that women have and the side effects or results of those options aren't exactly the best care that we could be getting. It's not the modern care that we should receive.
Jessica: [00:27:58] And I think for so long too, all this information was withheld, kept private or only within certain medical communities. And then at the same time, only within certain communities of women where it was more traditional medicine or learning from their grandmothers or whatever it was. Now, with the Internet and even what you're doing with Steamy Chick and having your steamy chick vaginal steam forum online, we're able to share information more readily and share those notes, so that we can see what is working and what actually does have a positive effect for the overall well-being of the woman. And not just for the reproductive area itself but even mental wellness. I think that's something too with hormones, when you take birth control, for example, and you're taking a synthetic hormone, you're not really engaging anymore with what's happening naturally within the whole psychosomatic system that is our body. So, I think there is a huge issue with that as well, that a lot of people ignore, until much later, they want to go off of it and they realize, "Oh this is who I really am and this is how I feel around my period."
Keli Garza: [00:29:10] Yes. That's one thing that Kimberly Johnson speaks to. She says, I think one in three or one in four women have postpartum depression. She's like, "Postpartum depression. Women don't have their natural function." So yes, they may be sad but it's not actually a mental health issue. She like, "If women haven't been cared for, if they don't have their bowel functions, they're shitting themselves and can't now go into public, wouldn't that make you feel sad?" Her point is, a lot of times it's not a mental health issue, it's a physiological issue. And a woman is being ignored and so she is now becoming depressed or troubled because of this physiological issue that she has that she may not even know how to get help.
Jessica: [00:30:13] Right, and when she is going to a doctor saying, "These are all the things I'm dealing with, helped me." To be told, "Oh, I think you're a little crazy. Let's put you on anti-depressants. I just can't believe we're still living out that same story, of oh crazy woman and powerful doctor. We can't win.
Keli Garza: [00:30:36] Good point.
Jessica: [00:30:36] Well yes, I totally agree. I'm so excited about the study that you guys are doing too, again, put vaginal steaming out there as such a viable option for self-care for women at all phases of life, really. Before we talk a little bit more about that though, I wanted to talk about steaming in general. What exactly happens? I know you've done some experiments, kind of DIY on your own and documented how steam can permeate the cervix and actually enter the uterus or even just the heat itself. I don't know if you could tell us a little bit more about that. You're also looking at melting fibroids and if that's possible through steam. What did you find in these experiments?
Keli Garza: [00:31:19] Well, I am fascinated with steam. I was working with women and as they were having the results I was just like, "Oh, how did that happen?" So, a lot of what steam can do, I was able to make through observation. So, (1) It appears that steam increase circulation. The heat increase the circulation to the external and internal genitalia. Just by putting heat into that area, you're improving the blood circulation to the area, which improves the uterine function just on its own, whether or not the steam gets into the genitalia, (2) steam is a deep cleanser. So we know in, facial care, for example, steam is used to penetrate the cells and to clean even underneath the level of cells, right? So in cases where women have infections, bacteria, yeast, viruses wherever they might be, steam is able to clean it on a whole different level than just water would be able to. Steam appears to be able to drain these For example, in facial care, you know that if you have some type of blemish, you could either take a shower or you could do a facial steam and what happens, it will drain. Well, a lot of the gynecological issues women have are actually some type of a cyst or pimple. So, women could get pimples on their cervix, they can get cysts inside the vaginal canal, around the urethra area and the clitoris. And what is a cyst? It's a pimple filled with puss. Just as easily as a hot shower would drain a pimple off the face, steam is able to drain any fluid that is built up on the external genitalia area, just because the steam touches that area. Another thing that has happened, working with women, I've seen that steam has gotten rid of women's ovarian cysts and it gets rid of it almost immediately. So the cysts and the ovary, that's going to be inside the internal reproductive organs. That's going to be the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The cysts are all the way in the ovaries. So, one of the things that you hear critics say is, "Vaginal steaming could never work and it can't get into the uterus because what these vaginal steam experts don't know, is that there's a cervix blocking the steam from getting into there." Okay. I've seen articles like that.
Keli Garza: [00:34:04] First of all, there's a lot of issues women have that are the external genitalia. A Bartholin's cyst, for example, is right there at the vaginal canal opening. We know this steam can touch that area, so women have been able to naturally heal their Bartholin's cysts. Rule (1) there are a lot of issues that aren't even in the higher reproductive check. But as far as the higher reproductive check goes, I don't know how or why, I wish some more scientists would study it, but when women have ovarian cysts, they go away. Now, I know that you know obviously, the steam is increasing circulation, which is increasing the uterus' own cleansing function on its own behaviors. But what I started to observe, was that people were reporting after they steamed, there would be brown spotting that came out of their body, after a steam session. So, they would steam and there would be brown blood. Then they wouldn't have more brown blood until the next time they steamed, then there would be a little bit of brown blood, directly after steaming. So maybe if they steam at night, then they sleep and they would have that brown blood. This only happens when somebody has old residue. When I am working with somebody and they say, "Yes, I have brown blood in my period', then they steam nowhere near their period, then brown blood comes up. Then they steam again, brown blood comes out. What does this mean? This means that the steam is not only touching the bottom of the cervix, which we know, because the vaginal canal touches the part of the cervix. The cervix has an opening and that opening opens during our menstruation. It opens when a woman is in labor and she's going to deliver her baby and it can open during orgasm. Well, if she has old residue in there and she steams, then that brown comes out, that old residue comes out, that's a sign that the steam has opened the cervical opening. It's an opening, it's a hole that's there that opens and steam can get through anything. I mean, they used to use it in mail fraud. If they have a mail that's glued shut, you use steam to open it, right? It opens glue when there is no hole, of course it can open up a hole right. But anyhow, this phenomenon of women having brown come out after they steam, is actually well documented now that I've seen. It's a sign that the steam is absolutely opening that cervical opening and that it is ascending into the uterus.
Keli Garza: [00:36:55] Number two, women report feeling a sensation of warmth in their uterus. So that's another sign that the steam is getting in there. Then, number three about steam, you'll like this example. This one woman, one of my friends and she's a medical doctor, she had two fibroids. So, I asked her to steam and she called me and said that her fibroids had fallen out in the toilet. One had fallen out of the toilet and then later when she was showering, another fibroid came out. I was just like, "Oh my God." That was the first instance that that had happened. It's now documented that this can happened and several more people have had these stories. Mind you, she was a medical student at the time but this is a medical student. She's not some weirdo who has no idea what's going on with their body. According to her, she was able to see the fibroids come out. I was thinking about it and I was thinking well, what are fibroids? I start to look up what fibroids look like. They look like white congealed bits of fat or mucous. The look like big white buggers. It's gross but that's what they look like. So I started to think, I wonder how hard they are? And that was something that we were discussing, it's how hard they are. She said it was hard but soft too. What I did was, I took some shoe glue and I put it in a jar and I held it over a pot of boiling water to see how long it would take. I let it sit. I let it sit for a couple of days before I did it, so it was really hard. As I was touching it, I'm like, "I think this might be as hard as a fibroid might be, right? I held it over the boiling water to see how long it would take. I think it was within 30 seconds all of the glue had melted and come down into the pot. So then I did it again and I put a piece of pleather, like a thick piece of plastic over the jar and I took a needle and I put a little hole in it. I got the glue again, I let it sit for a couple days, I put this pleather over it and put a little pop in it, just a little hole like a needle and I held it over there. This time I put a rack so I don't have to hold it because it took longer. After 20 minutes all of the glue had melted and was down at the bottom of the jar and a lot of it had already dripped out jumped out into the pot. So I was like, steam can melt things. Steam can melt things even when it's as solid and hard as glue. I don't think fibroids are getting much harder than that.
Keli Garza: [00:39:54] When you really think about it, steam can work its way through granite rock. Steam come up from the earth, and it will work its way right through that rock. It'll work its way through metal. In fact, that's one reason why steam isn't used for engines. It erodes the metal over time. So steam really can't get through even really thick, strong substances. And we don't have anything like metal or rock in her uterus. Nothing in there is that hard.
Jessica: [00:40:22] I think what you're writing in your experience too, maybe less theme is coming up into the uterus than through the canal. It's kind of building up more so, but it's on a basic level, bringing heat to this area and even if it's working more at the base of the cervix.
Keli Garza: [00:40:37] Exactly.
Jessica: [00:40:40] It's like a hot air balloon. There is a new heat element entering the atmosphere and you're right, anything that's dangling from the uterine wall, that doesn't want to be there anymore especially... I think you're describing uterine polyps also as being like phlegm, or like a benign tumor, a coagulation of cells. And so that he can really help and decompose that. It's not like a calcified rock in there, it's soft and mucousy, you can bugger it, like you were saying. And then it's coming out through the steam sessions of people that you work with and people are getting those results. Is that more for uterine polyps that are actually in the uterus and not the ones that are embedded in the uterine wall, on the exterior or still kind of...?
Keli Garza: [00:41:34] The harder something is, like scar tissue, it's going to take longer to steam, but it can be anywhere. So you can have scar tissue in the fallopian tubes. And I've had cases where it comes out. It can be anywhere, adhesions or something else that are harder. Adhesions with scar tissue are the hardest to take out because they're the hardest matter. Fibroids that are inside the uterine cavity are the easiest to get rid of. Then you have fibroids that are in the walls and then fibroids on the outside. But another thing, just like you mentioned, even if you just heat the bottom of the jar, it's going to end up in the jar and help the stuff to melt out. That's basically what's happening with the fibroids that are in the wall or on the outside of the uterine wall. The steam can't directly touch them but the steam is touching the blood vessels that are in the vaginal canal and cervix that go along the uterus. Still the steam is heating up and improving the circulation of the blood vessels throughout that whole area. So it takes longer, it's more dedication to treat fibroids that on the outside of the uterus. But it still works.
Jessica: [00:42:51] Awesome. I love that story of the medical student, of them falling out in the shower. I would love to see a photo of that, as crazy as it sounds. Like, we want to see them.
Keli Garza: [00:42:59] Listen, I don't like photos. I don't like taking them, but if you go into your vaginal steam, there are several more women who have had these cases and I've taken photos and you can private message them and they'll send you photos.
Jessica: [00:43:13] I need to do this right after. Let's talk a little bit more about your current project then, the fourth trimester vaginal steam study. I know Kimberly Johnson who you're working with, Maga Mama. For those of you that may already be following her, she wrote a book called The Fourth trimester which maybe you can explain. What is the fourth trimester?
Keli Garza: [00:43:43] The fourth trimester is basically, when you look at pregnancy there's the first trimester and that's when these things happen. The second trimester third trimester and then a woman gives birth. So now there's this concept that there is actually also a fourth trimester. This is a really important time for the baby's development and the mother's development as well, in order to continue the process of the breast milk production and the care that a woman needs in order to recover from the delivery. So it's called the fourth trimester. It's this idea that there should be another three months after a woman gives birth, that is still dedicated to the whole pregnancy and birthing experience. We shouldn't just, baby born, done, head back to work. It doesn't drop off right there. There's still more. I not sure who kind that term [the fourth trimester], but Kimberly Johnson did a really great job. I have her book right here.
Jessica: [00:44:38] Yes, we're getting a look into your whole library. I love it.
Keli Garza: [00:44:43] So she wrote the book, The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guided to Healing your Body, Balancing your Emotions and Restoring your vitality. And so she really did a lot of compiling all of the information, from around the world, of what women have done historically and the best practices to how women need to take care of themselves postpartum. Because she wrote this book... in fact she can't deal with it all. She has hundreds of people on a waiting list to see her, for the help that they could receive post-partum. She is particularly specialized when it comes to pelvic floor health and repairing scars from postpartum. So she has hundreds of people on a waiting list to see her because she knows how to repair this stuff. And as these people are, "Hey can you help me. I need an appointment with you", she's hearing all of these horror stories. And so it's very similar to what happens with me, because I am able to help women with vaginal steaming, I'm getting all these messages from women with horror stories.
[00:45:51] Postpartum is one of the really sad ones. The postpartum care that women get... So, a woman gives birth, the midwife and doctors whichever one, they check to make sure that she is not bleeding to death, they check to make sure that any of her tears get stitched up, if they need stitches, then they check to make sure that she is eating and that she can urinate and have a bowel movement. Then she is released from the hospital. Then, she gets zero care for six weeks. She's completely left alone. Then at the six weeks mark, what they do is, they check to make sure that... I'm not sure. I don't know what they do at the six week mark. They tell her that she can resume sexual activity and then they offer birth control. Those are the main two purposes of the six week visit. Now, when is postpartum recovery? What is postpartum recovery? What needs to happen for her to be recovered and healed? There's actually not even a definition for it. There is no definition for postpartum recovery. So, I was thinking through it. Well one thing is, I worked with steaming for postpartum. I myself used it for postpartum and had amazing results. So when I work with people for postpartum, there's some very specific things that I'm trying to do. Number one, I want to get all of the lochia out. So after a woman gives birth she bleeds. Is all of the lochia out? Doctors don't really check on that. Women can go for up to a year bleeding postpartum. They give birth and they're bleeding. They continue to bleed for a whole year and their doctors tell them it's normal. Then, if their doctors do get concerned, they'll do a DNC procedure, where they put a sharp tool inside of a woman and then scrape the inside of her uterus or they'll recommend birth control. In a lot of cases the birth control doesn't work and she still bleeds. It's very interesting. A woman gives birth, the placenta needs to come out and then all of the birth matter needs to come out. You know how long it takes with vaginal steaming? One to three vaginal steam sessions and all of the lochia clears out. I just talked to somebody yesterday, I know she steamed 30 days in a row postpartum, so I asked her, how many days until there was no lochia and she said three. I also had that experience. I didn't have lochia, I think it was three times with my first child and four times with my second. No lochia after that. And yet we've got women that are bleeding for a year. I mean, how inconvenient is that. You're trying to take care of a baby. There's so much that mothers need to be doing other than still bleeding. There's no reason why women should still be bleeding after a year. And yet we don't have a definition for what postpartum recovery means, so we don't have any protocol for a woman if she's still bleeding. I mean,I was never given any information about what needed to happen for me to heal. One is that people know that they should lose the pregnancy weight. I think that's what people think postpartum recovery is, if you have lost your pregnancy weigh. I think that's the only one.
[00:49:32] So, number one, the lochia needs to be cleared up. Number two, all of the tears should be repaired and the scar tissue should be healed up. Number three, the uterus and all the organs need to go back into place and the uterus needs to shrink back down to size, and so on. There are actual physiological things that should happen after a woman gives birth in order for her to recover from the birth experience. And it's all natural. But the problem is, since we don't have any definition for it, since doctors leave women alone and don't pay attention to any of these things, women aren't getting the care that they need, they're not recovering and they're ending up with incontinence. So much so, that incontinence is just a joke. You hear every comedian say it in every show. After a woman gives birth she says, "Oh yeah, everything is normal except I pee sometimes when I sneeze." Then we hear laughter. So, her organs haven't returned to their normal function and this is just a joke. Okay.
Jessica: [00:50:36] You know, I [00:50:36] think_______. [0.2]
Keli Garza: [00:50:37] That's an example of how low out bar is for what needs to happen after a woman gives birth. There's no reason why her organs shouldn't return to their normal function. So the elimination organs involves urination and defecation - the colon and then the period. So the other thing that happens is that women give birth and when their period returns, they have an awful period, really heavy bleeding. No problem. [During] the whole pregnancy and birth experience, shouldn't you consider her period as well? When her period returns, would that be a sign of how the state of her uterus and whether or not she's fully recovered? It is a sign, but again, not anything that is in anybody's mind about what postpartum recovery is. With my practitioners I teach them first of all, the physiological things that you're looking for to make sure that a woman has recovered, postpartum. She does need to have all of her organs back into place and healthy. She should have eliminated all of the lochia. She shouldn't still be bleeding. Then, when she has her period, she's maintained and she has to be checked on until she has her period. And when she has her period, then her [00:52:03] _______, [0.0] is that final [00:52:03] _____ [0.4] her health, at that point and whether or not she's fully recovered. And that is the whole postpartum period and the whole postpartum recovered period that we should be used assisting with.
Jessica: [00:52:16] It's so fascinating because we haven't fully conquered the first three trimester. But so much attention is given to just the baby, the mother birth, sometimes again not always. Then this whole postpartum period is focused so much on childcare, breastfeeding and all these things that you're still kind of giving away of one's self as the mother but not how to kind of care best for yourself so that you feel really able to do all these other jobs that are suddenly being demanded of you. So it's like this whole other world that, you're right, we just sort of sever ourselves from medical care the second child was born in the hospital, at home or whatever it is. Then you're left to fend for yourself, when you're already kind of cut off from communication socially and this way you might have been before, where you could ask your girlfriends or maybe traditionally, your mother or grandmother would help you in child raising but the way that our civilization is set up now, we don't always have those resources ready at hand. So I'm sure it can be horribly isolating too, to suddenly be left in this fourth trimester without any answers and then trying to go to your doctor to ask, "Is this normal that I'm bleeding really heavily every day or that I pee constantly when I just start speaking a sentence." The [the doctor] says, "Oh yeah, your fine." "Oh maybe you're depressed, here's some antidepressants" just to add to the pile of issues.
Keli Garza: [00:53:41] Yes, I was actually accused of being selfish. I set up a postpartum plan for myself after giving birth and included meals and so forth and I was told by my family members that I was being selfish. So that's how much you know the brainwashing is that it's really only the baby that's important and not the mother.
[00:54:11] I have a Taiwanese friend and she was explaining to me that they really have a strong importance on the postpartum care because they say that, in order for a woman to give birth, she must die and in order for her to be a good mother, the community must make sure that she come back alive. It's so beautiful. Then, another one I heard recently, there's this birth summit by this wonderful woman, her name was Layla. I forget her last name. But she did a birth summit and superb information about the traditional Moroccan birth, postpartum experience. I heard a quote that she shared which was, "When a woman gives birth, her grave is opened for four years. In other words, if you love that woman you have to make sure that she doesn't die, because if you don't give her the proper care that she needs, she could die. I mean people do die. That is a real possibility. If we look historically into some of the cultures and places where they still do take care of the mothers, we hear these really great sayings but we are unfortunately cut off when it comes to our postpartum care. But when you hear it you just know it's right. I don't know, are you a mother?
Jessica: [00:55:41] No. I hope to be, but I'm learning a lot so that's good. Almost every one of my friends especially with incontinence, I hear about that constantly where they're like, "Oh yeah, we pee on our pants when we go for a jog, when we laugh, and we pee pee". I'm like, "Oh, that can't be good". So, I'm always sending them information about things I'm reading about, the LV, Kegel trainer or pee underwear. But still, even that, it's a patch for a greater issue of just not having a proper postpartum care right out the gate.
Keli Garza: [00:56:16] Yes, if the bladder, the uterus and the colon doesn't go back to their normal positioning, and the vaginal canal needs to close...the other thing is women are just left completely open. Their vaginal canal may not close, their uterus may not go back up, they're left with complete prolapse afterwards. If the vaginal canal cannot close and the muscles can close back up and heal and all of the organs go back into their place, then you don't have those types of issues. That's one of the main things that can prevent that from happening.
Jessica: [00:56:49] So usually, when would a woman seem postpartum? How many days after childbirth or is it something you can do right away?
Keli Garza: [00:56:57] Yes. Women should start right away. So the sooner she starts, the more problems she can prevent. So for example, something that happens is that women end up back in the hospital due to infections. If the placenta doesn't expel all the way, then it can get infected. And this is going to happen somewhere between eight to 10 days, that she'll end up with a fever and then her life is at risk and she has to [00:57:21] go_________________. [0.1] I don't think that women should wait for 30 days before they start [to steam]. You have to get the lochia out. You have to get any remaining placenta out immediately. So it's important to start as soon as possible.
[00:57:41] Now, as far as how soon you can start. The woman needs to make sure and this is why I trained my practitioners to be able to determine, it is good to get a consultation before postpartum. I want midwives and postpartum care practitioners to know this and be able to determine when should I start. Basically you have to make sure that she's not bleeding, that her uterine arteries are still open. There's blood coming out but that's not the same as the period where the uterine artery is opens. So her uterine arteries are closed and what's coming out is just the lochia, is just the leftover matter. So the way you can know if it's safe for her to start steaming, because usually you would never see him on fresh red blood. The only way to know if it's safe is if it's decreasing. As long as your uterine arteries are open there's going to be some blood that comes out, then there will be a little bit less and a little bit less and it will continue like that. The lochia will get less and less until it turns brown. If a woman gives birth, she may fill up one pad and then maybe it's one pad every two hours, then one pad every four hours, then we know that the lochia is decreasing then it's safe for her to start. So she can start.
[00:58:55] When I'm giving these generalized interviews, I'm going to say start on day four. That way it will be very clear that the lochia is decreasing by day four. If working with a practitioner, it's possible to start even earlier. It's really great because one of the other things that steaming does and this is important in the immediate postpartum, is when a woman has swollen skin, sometimes the skin gets really swollen and out of place and basically everything is out of order and it's really hard for her elimination functions to go back to normal because of the swollen skin. Steaming reduces that swollen skin in just one session. So that's one thing that [steaming] can do immediately, The other thing is that the uterus has to go back down the size and so midwives will say, "Oh, it can take from four to six weeks for the uterus to go back to its pre-pregnancy state. The uterus stays big if there is still stuff in there. So, if you can clear that lochia out, the uterus goes back to its place and everything else goes back to its place. Again, it just really accelerates [the woman's] body getting back to normal.
[01:00:08] Myself, after 10 days of steaming, I was only five pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, and that five pounds was breast milk. The breast milk weights anywhere from five to 10 pounds. My stomach looked completely normal and I didn't have an easy birth. I had a pretty good birth in that, I didn't have any major birth injuries or anything, but I had a 10 pound baby. She was huge and my uterus collapsed. So my cervix was down at my vaginal canal opening. So I had a complete prolapse. After ten days, my uterus was back to its size. Everything was back in place. My vaginal canal was closed and I had lost all my pregnancy weight. That was after ten vaginal steams.
Jessica: [01:00:58] I feel like there's a misconception too about pregnancy weight being the same thing as gaining weight, getting fatter essentially. It's seems like, from what you're saying too, it has so much to do with the way the uterus is filled with all this matter that helped the baby during gestation. But once the baby's out, releasing that from the body, allowing the uterus to reduce to its state before pregnancy and then again nestled in that space between our bladder and our rectum so that those two organs can also do what they need to do. The quicker we can do that, the happier we are on all ends, literally.
Keli Garza: [01:01:42] I'm not a crier, okay. But I cried inside when I went to the bathroom after giving birth. I didn't know where my urethra was. When I wiped, I was touching my cervix and that was a very uncomfortable feeling. I didn't know I was touching my cervix. My skin was all swollen out of place and I was scared. I was so scared Jessica. I was scared and shocked into silence. I'm not somebody who talks about this kind of stuff. I was just very quiet and I came out of the bathroom and I was just completely distraught because I didn't believe that my body would ever be normal again. So just imagine. Mind you, I had been steaming for a couple of years and I had a vaginal steam sauna set up and I had planned on steaming postpartum. So I started steaming. Well remember, there was no information back then. I didn't have access to any information, so I didn't know what was going to happen. Can you imagine after 10 days, when I was living in my own body, just as I had always known, with my cute baby, with all this breast milk? Oh, [steaming] also stimulates breast milk production. If you have a lot of breast milk, you have a sleepy baby that just sleeps all day long and your life is easy. For the most part, if you have a lot of breast milk, you have a really easy baby. So I had this really easy baby with all this breast milk and my body was back to my own at ten days and I have the photo online, on a blog of me and my muscular stomach after ten days. And none of this doesn't say anything about it being a problem if women gain weight. I mean, during pregnancy, you have to eat. During postpartum you have to eat. I was eating seven meals a day and lost all of the weight in those 10 days. So, I thought that was the postpartum meal plan. This isn't starving yourself, this isn't dieting. Dieting in fact, is one of the things that makes it so that women don't have their breast milk supply. I wasn't exercising. I was laid up. So that's one of the postpartum things. It's actually just lay down and sleep when the baby does, just to regain their energy. So I was sleeping, eating seven meals a day, vaginal steaming and after 10 days I had my body back. So, one of the things that I learned from Dr. Lia Andrews, in her book, Seven Times a Woman, she's a traditional Chinese medicine doctor. And she said that basically the pregnancy weight, a lot of it is actually just water weight. And so, the meals that women are given postpartum, are meals that helped to shed water weight because you can shed that water weight immediate, that bloating. You know the women who have the bloated or swollen feet, this is something we know that women have during pregnancy. That's all water weight. And if you can shed it and get rid of it right away through food and through steaming. Steaming, that's really good for it. If you shed that water weight and get rid of all of that bloating, then it doesn't turn into fat. Fat takes a lot longer to get rid of than water. So that's one of the reasons why. And you know, I don't like to talk about [steaming] for weight loss because weight loss is one of the things that we do get slammed with all the time. I mean look at all of the weight loss pills and products on the market and so I feel sleazy when I sell this, "Oh, it's going to be you lose the weight." But the reality is, you don't want extra weight. And if steaming immediately during postpartum is going to help you lose that water that you were holding during pregnancy, why not. Why not try it.
Jessica: [01:05:38] Yes, instead of putting the emphasis on like, "Oh, you're losing weight so that you look better." It's really about you are losing all this extra stuff inside of your uterus that you no longer need to make you that much lighter.
Keli Garza: [01:05:51] So that you recover. We have no standard for postpartum recovery. Another term that they used and I don't know coined it, is mother the mother. The woman needs to be brought back to life so that she can be a good mother to her children. She's not walking around depressed. I mean, we can't lie, fat does depress women. It's a huge issue for us, mainly because of the fat shaming that goes on in our society and the expectations that we're given of what our images are. Which I am not approving of any of that stuff. But it is something that plays a role for a lot of women, as far as how she feels. We just know that it is comfortable to be in our own body. So, if vaginal steaming can get women back to her old body, within 30 days, within 10 days, why shouldn't we do it? So again, I was talking to Sophia, I forgot her last name, but she is one of my vaginal steam practitioners. She conceived at the age of 43 after a couple of miscarriages and after doctors were saying she was [01:07:03] too ______ [0.0] to give birth and to have a successful pregnancy. She used vaginal steaming for three months, got her perfect period and then conceived. She was just such a sweetheart. She stays in contact with me and she wrote a guest blog about her experience. And then she did her post-partum steaming and so another question that I asked her what was... One of the things that she had posted on Instagram, after seven days she was five pounds from her pre-pregnancy weight after 6 days of steaming. Again, she started immediately postpartum and so this is one of the things, a lot of times we don't know what is safe so a lot of times what you'll see online is just people posting whatever they think might be safe because they don't know. So there's some information out there that says that you should start after you have no more lochia, no more bleeding. Well that could be three months for some. That's not actually true. You just have to be able to determine when it is safe to start. Again, I trained my practitioners to be able to tell you.
Jessica: [01:08:08] I think I mentioned to you an email that I was reading this study from a Swiss University, where they went to a really small village in Indonesia because they were also very curious about vaginal steaming and there, they call it bakera. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly, b-a-k-e-r-a. I think they interviewed 14 midwives and about 170 mothers in different villages about this traditional practice, trying to understand its effectiveness and why women do it at all. And in a lot of their interviews, they talked about how some of the women really just did it because it was tradition, which I also think was quite beautiful, and the way that you're saying the mother mothering themselves. Their family and neighbors would go out to the garden, gather whatever herbs were really local to their specific area. A lot of them were spices they used for cooking even. [01:09:01] ______is [0.1] like aroma, therapeutic, hydrotherapeutic experience for her to steam. And I think they would steam, I think they said 3 to 16 days on average, after delivery and continue sometimes for the full month. All of them reported feeling completely rejuvenated after birth and that they were really grateful for this tradition in their villages. At the end of the study they determined that you know these traditional healing methods are very safe and effective for recuperation after childbirth. So it's kind of like exactly what you you're about to do in terms of a study here.
Keli Garza: [01:09:40] That's incredible.
Jessica: [01:09:40] I'll send you the article.
Keli Garza: [01:09:41] Yes, please send it to me. I do have on the Steamy Chick website a list of clinical studies that have been done on vaginal steaming and it is really hard to find anything. Kris Gonzalez, the Steamy Chick acupuncturist, found some studies that are in other languages in Korean and Chinese clinical of studies they've done on vaginal steaming. But Jessica, I've never heard of this study and that's really awesome because honestly, I'll probably put it on the website. That's really great. So I want to add it to the list of studies.
Jessica: [01:10:11] It's amazing too because I think there's probably just so much more of it that exists in these more indigenous cultures around the world. You know for a lot of us from our heritage, I'm sure it is part of our lineage as well, but it's been lost over here in Western culture. I'm just curious why you think that may have happened, especially considering your background more in international studies and anthropology. Why have we lost this?
Keli Garza: [01:10:43] I've made the same conclusion as you. Basically, where I found the majority of cases where vaginal steaming is practiced, are in communities where midwives are still attending to women's care. It was a common and completely universal midwifery, so midwives everywhere have used it. In fact, I've even found African-American midwives who have learned the practice and are still using in the south, from the Americans tradition. So everywhere where you have midwives, [they] have used it historically. But here in the US, midwifery became illegal. It was actually illegalized in the 1800s. So, midwives would be put in jail for delivering babies. In fact, a lot of these laws haven't been overturned. There are still, I believe, don't quote me on this guys, this isn't my area of expertise, nine states where it's illegal for a midwife to deliver a baby and there are midwives right now, today, that are in jail for delivering a baby.
Jessica: [01:11:46] No.
Keli Garza: [01:11:47] Oh yeah. Here in the US, we have midwives in jail for delivering babies. There's like a midwifery legal organization, I don't know the name of it, [which] represents those midwives and is trying to work to overturn some of those laws. Basically when midwifery became illegalized, that's when we lost the practice. So what happened at the time was that, doctors made it illegal for midwives to deliver babies, so women had to go to the hospitals to deliver babies. This was a very radical, quick change that happens. The thing was, doctors did not know anything about childbirth and they didn't learn what the midwives were doing. They never interviewed them before they threw them in jail. They weren't going and visiting them in jail and like, "Hey, by the way, what do you do after a woman gives birth?"
Jessica: [01:12:55] Yeah I know it's crazy. Also, I think they're probably was a certain time in the history of medicine, when it became more of this strict profession, I guess it was a threat to their body of knowledge that the midwives were performing this magical act or ushering this magical act of giving birth with women. Then it was sort of co-opted by the hospital saying, "Oh you can't do that anymore because that's going to be in our domain, and this is what our expertise is going to be and we're going to charge more money for it." So I think yes.
Keli Garza: [01:13:41] Here's the funny part, the doctors have no idea. Everything that was the woman's periodic illnesses and childbirth was all considered women's affairs. It wasn't even considered part of medicine in the West. So when the doctors started seeing these women in the hospitals, first of all, the birth mortality rate, in other words, the amount of babies that die and mothers, the maternal mortality rate, it went up. Because, they had no idea what they were doing and they had these women right next to people who had plague, fevers and all kinds of terminal illnesses. So, what they learned was, "Oh, wait. If we're going to have these women in the hospital, they need to have their own ward." And that's why we have a maternity ward. You didn't know that. They were working on them right next to other people. They were treating it like an illness when it was never considered an illness before that. Since they're doing surgery on these people and giving them drugs and stuff like that, they started doing the same stuff on women, so much so, that the doctors were like ... Mind you, at this time in the United States, it was illegal for women to go to med school. So all doctors were men at the time, right. So none of them have ever delivered babies. None of them have ever shadowed midwives to deliver babies. None of them asked the midwives what they were doing. So, this is what the men did, they are looking at these women, they put them up on the table, they're looked at their vaginal canal opening and they were like, "The baby is this big. That opening is only this big. That baby can come through that hold." So what did they do, they develop the Caesarean. They cut the women open and take the baby out, because of the problem that the whole wasn't big enough for the baby to come through. The whole history of humanity, until that point, surgery wasn't used for babies to be delivered. But these men, they saw a problem. They just couldn't understand how to baby was supposed to get through this. So they started using surgery. So, one is the caesarean that was developed and the other one was an episiotomy. So what they do is, they cut from the vaginal canal opening, they cut the whole perineum, I believe all the way to the anus. Not all the way to the anus, but they cut the whole perineum to make a bigger hole or opening. They are extremely painful. They were done as just standard procedure all through the 1980s. So any of us that were born in the 80s, our mothers probably had standard episiotomies. Nobody was asked, it was just standard practice so a lot of times the older gynecologist that are in practice will just do it as standard without even asking for permission.
Jessica: [01:16:40] That's still done today I think, pretty often. It's wild. So again, this is reiterating the point of why it's so important now to fund more research for how vaginal steaming can help prevent a lot of these issues and help in postpartum. Where it's not this divisive thing where there is alternative medicine and mainstream medicine, but where we're starting to look back to traditional methods and reintegrate them into like our pretty hyper, technologically advanced way of being.
Keli Garza: [01:17:18] Yes. There are some really great gynecological tools. I really like ultrasounds. Surgery does save lives, it saves babies lives and mothers' lives, in childbirth and certain situations. However, obstetrics, which is delivering the babies, hasn't even began to look at what women have done historically. It has really just developed from the point where midwifery became illegal and the men decided that surgery needed to happen in order for babies to be born. So obstetrics and gynecology has focused on surgery. These were actual surgeons that worked on women to deliver babies. But I do believe that obstetrics and gynecology are in their infant stages because they haven't actually started to look at how the body naturally does these things without the assistance of surgery. So that's just a reality that they didn't look at that stuff. They started using surgeries and also drugs. So, there is a lot that has yet to be studied and understood about the body from the point of science. And when we look at the traditional birthing practices and what midwives do in indigenous communities now and what they have done throughout the West in the past as well, we find some really wise tools.
[01:18:54] So actually, virginal steaming, I refer to it as women's ancient medicine. This was the medicine that we developed. It's not that it's non-scientific. There is science and we can study what steam does and why it's having these effects on the body. It's just that. It hasn't been studied very much and the studies are obscure and hard to find. So, it's great that you found that study about it. But every time that there are studies on vaginal steaming, it shows me great potential of this as an incredible women's health tool. Then the beauty of it is that, women have known this all along. We've developed this, this is our medicine. It doesn't involve knives, scraping tools, drugs with the side effects [01:19:46] of _______. [0.3] The List is very long. So it's a really beautiful thing that we are resurging and reclaiming these practices. We do have the freedom to do it. And also, one other thing, medicine doesn't have to exists separate from this. There's a vaginal steam spa in New York where there's a gynecologist who does the intake and does the vaginal steam, number one. Number two, in Germany when they have births, they have a midwife and a doctor next to each. The midwife does the stuff that the midwife does and the doctor does it stuff that the doctor does, and that's beautiful. In fact, in Germany the midwives will use vaginal steaming prior to delivery in order to get the woman ready for the delivery. That's the domain of the midwife. Some of those postpartum care, some of the getting the woman into labor and some of those things. That's going to be the domain of some of the knowledge that midwives have, that doctors in Germany acknowledge that they don't have and that the birth is better for having that midwife there, who knows how to get the woman to [01:20:58] ______ and [0.0] knows how to help her afterwards.
Jessica: [01:21:03] I think that's great and even the more research, that the project that you're working on right now with Kimberly, the more real report we have to present to the medical to help integrate these practices rather than making them feel threatening, cause that's definitely not what we want. We do want to reduce the amount of surgeries or more invasive procedures that get subpar results compared to vaginal steaming, which is getting really good results for these same types of women's health issues.
Keli Garza: [01:21:34] It's incredible.
Jessica: [01:21:35] So the hope is that we can just become better collaborators and not make it seem like there is this alternative thing that's being pulled out of thin air.
Keli Garza: [01:21:46] We're the ambassadors Jessica. We're the ones that have degrees, we're not scared of academia, doctors, we're not scared of not going to the doctor and using our own methods. We just happen to be safe in that space, not everybody is.
Jessica: [01:22:04] This is true.
Keli Garza: [01:22:04] But, we're in that space and we're willing to be the ambassadors. We can speak the language, we know academia. Even if you mention to them that you have a degree in architecture. "Yes, she's an architect", you know what I mean. So she knows the language. Me, I have a master's degree. I took the time to do a master's degree. So I know how to write a report. I know how to design a study, you see what I mean. So we are playing that role as ambassadors. Then there are people that, one example would be Haiti. In Haiti, they have always been using vaginal steaming. They weren't cut off from the practice and they're very secretive. They don't share it very readily. I'm okay with that too. But we are playing the role of the ambassadors, of helping to bring it back to life for western women. just to put it into context, to understand that even if your doctor didn't recommend it, it may be something that's valuable and here's some information that will show you why. So, this whole project is one of those. I do believe that if we do this study, that it will be able to bring this to so many more women and be that bridge to the medical community. There are doctors that are interested in this. There are doctors that are my customers and clients, that have had amazing results. None of them will say anything about it. None of them will speak about it because they will get ridiculed and they will get shamed. This study is going to be a bridge so that even if the doctors did want to talk about it and share her personal experience with getting the perfect period or getting pregnant as a result of using [vaginal steam] or getting rid of fibroids where she was getting medical care, fibroids weren't taking care and now they were, right. We have a situation where doctors can claim this and yet, they don't because of [01:24:00] _____. [0.0] And all you have to do is google vaginal steaming to see some type of criticism.
Jessica: [01:24:06] There's a lot of critics out there. We actually interviewed a gynecologist who's in Atlanta, Dr. Tosha Rogers and she also offers vaginal steaming at her practice.
Keli Garza: [01:24:18] No way. That's awesome.
Jessica: [01:24:19] She was an interesting woman to talk to. So yes, I feel like she would be a good spokesperson also for everything that we're doing.
Keli Garza: [01:24:30] That's awesome. You know, we need more gynecologists like that, that are afraid to be like, you know what, "We don't know everything. We still have more to learn." You know, science is not meant to be static. It's meant to move slower forward. So that's cool. I'm really glad to hear about Dr. Rogers.
Keli Garza: [01:24:47] Somebody that's viewing was asking a question so I'm just going to up here so that we can answer it. She says, "Can you correct it if five years after last birth?" I think she was writing that when we were talking about incontinence and prolapse and those types of issues.
Keli Garza: [01:25:02] Yes. Just case after case, women have birth injuries and complications that have been since they gave birth and I've seen it corrected 20 years later. In fact, that first case that I was working with the woman, she was like, "My periods were never like this before giving birth." So, the terrible period she was having was actually a result of improper post-partum recovery. It was four years after her last birth when she tried the vaginal steaming. And so then, even just after one month, she was able to see the results. So yes things can be corrected later as well. Vaginal steaming, it's ridiculous Jessica.
Jessica: [01:25:50] It's a catch all for everything.
Keli Garza: [01:25:53] It's a real big catch all. It just resets everything to the point that I had this one woman, she's just like, "I have had this elbow injury and I vaginal steam and it's the first time I don't have any pain. I've had three more women say that about knee pain and I'm like, "Should I add this to the list? You know what I mean? It's seems so incredible. What happens is that, it creates circulation when you clear up the stagnation in the abdomen, it increases the circulation all over the body, which increases the body's normal function of being able to repair itself. So, it just fixes everything.
Keli Garza: [01:26:33] I know. And some of the pieces too that we didn't really cover in this interview and some women that keep receiving steaming talk about it a bit more, about the kind of emotional or spiritual aspects to it. It's like it's never ending, how many great things can happen, just from the simple act of bringing heat to that part of your body. We store so much there and it's also like our throat, the sort of sphincter muscle that when you bring heat there, you finally get to relax this piece of yourself that you may have been holding on to so tightly as a result of impounding life experience that may have been abusive or whatever it was, even on a subtle level. So I think it just a self care practice and as a ritual can bring so much to a woman's life in that regard.
Keli Garza: [01:27:22] The statistics about the sexual abuse rates are just really staggering, the amount of women that have negative sexual experiences, abuse or rape and so forth. I think it's one in every three women has had a specific sexual abuse. But I think like all women have had negative sexual experiences even if it wasn't rape, right? So when you think about it, what goes into the vagina? Penis, tampons, sex toys. There are very few things that go in there that's not real natural. So the steam goes in there and it so gentle, nice and nourishing. Then the steam in making its way into the uterus, what goes into the uterus? The only thing that goes into the uterus, is during a DNC procedure, would be a scraping tool. Then you maybe have a scraping tool or sperm gets in there. How do you get sperm out of the uterus? There's no way to do it, right? There's nothing else that goes in there other than sperm which could turn into a baby or doctors that will either use surgery or do a scraping. There's nothing that goes in there, steam gets in there. So, it's like you have the core of your body that nothing can get inside of. And we're women with all of our emotions and yet the steam is getting into our core and is able to clear out all of those [01:28:54] ghosts [0.1] from the past. When I thought about steam getting to the uterus and how this helps emotionally, we even have in our language, oh, somebody's got bad blood or old blood. If we're literally holding onto old blood in our uterus and now we're able to clear it out, how does that help us to move forward. It's helps us to move forward and let go of things that are from the past. So, steam is really incredible for our emotional and spiritual growth.
Jessica: [01:29:46] So, for the study that you're going to be conducting, will you be doing the research yourself or do you have plans to put together a research team?
Keli Garza: [01:29:55] Yes. So, Kimberly and I design study together and we are going to fund the study. We aren't going to do the research because we can't do the research without it being a conflict of interest. Basically, you need to make sure that the research is as objective as possible. So we have hired a midwife as our head researcher. She's going to do all of the recruiting from people not from our audience because it's from our audience, again we've got too many issues. She's going to do all the recruiting through her midwife circle and either through a center or a hospital, She's going to recruit 20 women to take part in this study. And what she's going to do is, she is going to do a vaginal exam and look at several different indicators after the woman gives birth and these are all some of the indicators that doctors don't take into consideration. For example, her lochia. If she's still bleeding, what color it is? How much? Stuff like that. So she's going to look at these indicators and then also uterine placement, whether the vaginal canal has closed back. So, she's going to look at all these indicators and she's going to do an exam on all 20 of these women. Then, half of the women are going to do five days of vaginal steaming just cause we don't have very many resources, cause we're funding this ourselves, right. All of them are going to do the exact same vaginal steaming because [she] and her research assistant are going to facilitate every single steam session to make sure that they're all using the exact same setup and that everything is the same. So half of the group is going to do vaginal steaming and half of the group is not going to do vaginal steaming. Then she's going to do exams again on all 20 of them. And what we'll do is, we'll be able to take that information and see from the women who steamed, was there any difference in their healing and recovery versus the women that didn't steam. So we'll be able to see as far as uterine placement, stitches, whether the vaginal canal has close. [The] lochia, we're going to see if they're going to be bleeding.
Jessica: [01:32:21] Amazing. So, how can we help as an audience get in touch and help fund.
Keli Garza: [01:32:27] We've been getting tons of e-mails from people saying, "Can we participate in the study?" We are not going to do the recruiting our researchers are going to do that and it's going to all be done in a professional way. What we need is, we need the money to pay them. So we have 2 to 3 researchers. We have one head researcher and then she's going to have 1 or 2 assistants to be able to carry out the vaginal steaming. So, we need the funds to pay for their salary. It's going to take about three months to do the study. And so we're hired them, we are planning to give them an outright salary. All of the money goes towards the researchers and the supplies that they need, so that we have all the same supplies for everybody and also the lab work. We're going to do blood tests on the women before and after. So all of that is what the $25,000 that we need goes towards, every single penny. None of it goes to me. None of it goes to Kimberly. We both make money through our businesses. We [just] need money for this. We're commissioning the study. We designed it. We want to see what the results are going to be and then when the study is done, one of us is going to write it. As long as we get the results we are expecting, we're going to get this information out as far and wide as possible. So my role is to raise these funds. So we actually sent out an e-mail, the one that you got, where you invited me and said that you wanted to help. Thank you so much. We need to get the word out there. We've already raised thousands of dollars, headed towards our goal, but we still have further to go. So we have a website, it's called www.fourthtrimestervaginalsteamstudy.com. You can go right to that website to donate. You can also get to that website through the www.steamychick.com website. I have it in the menu. It says fourth semester vaginal steam study. You click on that and I will take you to the website where you can donate. Another cool thing that you guys might want to check out on there, we have stories of negligent postpartum care, some of the stories that we receive from women of what their doctors aren't taking care of them and leaving them to themselves. And then we have stories of what women are reporting after they steam, some of the really miraculous recovery stories of using the steam. So check those out as well.
Jessica: [01:34:59] Super easy. And one of my favorite places too is the Steamy Chick vaginal steam forum on Facebook. So anyone that wants to learn more about steaming and just talk to people firsthand and be part of the dialogue, that's also another great place to go. I'm so grateful for this whole talk and conversation and to finally meet you virtually, but it feels a little bit less virtual than I was dealing with before at least. We really appreciate all that you're contributing to this aspect of being alive to women's health and the livelihood of the planet really. So thank you so much for your time and best of luck on the study and I'm super happy to support it and blasted it as much as I can too.
Keli Garza: [01:35:43] Thank you so much Jessica. I feel the same about everything that you're doing. I'm so excited about it!
KATHE SCHAFF, M.A., M.F.T.
World-Renowned Author and Feminine Leadership/Spirituality Expert
What is the Divine Feminine? An In-Depth Discussion
Jessica: [00:00:01] All right. Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us on this beautiful Friday. My name is Jessica, from women's wellness brand Leiamoon. We've been interviewing experts from many different backgrounds to contribute to the discussion of intuitive feminine wisdom, healing and empowerment. So if you have any thoughts to share or questions during this broadcast, feel free to message in the comments and we'll include your thoughts during or towards the end of our conversation.
[00:00:28] Today, I'll be interviewing the amazing Kathe Schaaf. Kathe is co-author of the award-winning book, Women's Spirituality and Transformative Leadership and co-founder of Women of Spirit and Faith. Women of Spirit and Faith is a group of diverse intergenerational leaders, who convene gatherings and hosts conversations to invoke the sacred knowing of women in community exploring the edges of emerging spiritual leadership. This is such a pertinent topic at this time of transforming the world. So Kathe we're very thrilled to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:01:05] Thank you for inviting me. I'm delighted.
Jessica: [00:01:08] It's really great to see your face. We've been emailing quite a bit. So as an introduction maybe you could just tell us a bit more about your background and how you came to establish the organization, Women of Spirit and Faith.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:01:24] I think I need to back up one step before that, because in many ways there was already a path that had led me. It began on 9/11 when I heard a voice, very distinctly as I watched the second tower fall that morning on my television here in California. I heard a voice that said, this kind of thing would never happen in a world where the voices of women were heard. That was a wakeup call for me and I really began immediately, like literally that day, to explore issues related to women's empowerment, voices and leadership. In 2002, that led to the formation of an organization called Gather the Women, which is still alive and thriving today. It's our organic, self-organizing community of women that's global and that has the purpose of inviting women to come into circle to speak their wisdom and to grow in their own leadership and knowing in that way. I was with Gather the Women for many years and in 2007, heard another voice that said that there's something new that is coming for you, but there's no room for it in your life right now because Gather the Women is taking up all the space in your life. And so I extracted myself very gently, slowly and lovingly from Gather the Women and remain in loving relationship with a lot of those women and just remain open to what might want to come. In 2009 Women of Spirit and Faith was born. It was born at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne Australia where I went with a group of women to do a workshop on the Divine Feminine. It was at that gathering in a conversation with a Buddhist nun named [00:03:48] Woshean, [0.0] that we began talking about the fact that we were aware that the languaging that they use to invite people to come to the Parliament, invited women who were already affiliated strongly with a religion of some kind. Those religions were very diverse: Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Urantia, native American traditions, pagan traditions. But we were also aware that there was this large community of women and I was part of that community, who no longer identified with any single religion. They lived in the cracks in between those religions and their spiritual practices were made up of practices that they had woven together from many different spiritual traditions. So, our curiosity was, what might happen if you invited those two rivers of women to co-mingle: women who were strongly identified with a religion and women who were at that time, being identified as the 'nones', which is n-o-n-e-s, having no religion. I disagree with that characterization. I don't think of myself as a none. I think of myself more as an 'all'. I see the commonality among all the world's religions. And so, Women of Spirit and Faith was born in 2009, initially with that curiosity, what happens if we bring those two communities of women together and they begin to learn from one another and cross pollinate.
Jessica: [00:05:54] Amazing. I want to touch on something you did mention initially when you first got this intuitive calling of gathering the women during the events of 9/11. What about that event made you feel that this never would have happened if women had a voice in the ways of the world?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:06:16] I can't even answer that. It was just a deep intuitive knowing. There is a way that for more than 5000 years now, the voices of women have not been heard. They have not been heard in places of power. They have not been heard in religious structures and hierarchies. They have not been heard in academia, in business. Their voices were silenced long ago and that whole wisdom tradition of the feminine and particularly the Divine Feminine has been missing. There's a wonderful feisty Benedictine nun named Joan Chittister who writes in our book, who describes that as 'humanity is a bird with only one wing and it can never fly, until that second wing is restored.' So I had a sense of that. But that deep knowing was really awakened that day, because there was a moment there in the aftermath of 9/11, when the United States had cracked open the heart of the whole world with our grief. Something magical, powerful, transformative, healing could have happened in that space that was created. Instead, we went to war, again, as we have done so many thousands and thousands of times, all over the world, again and again. I think that pattern can only be changed when the voices of women, the wisdom of women and women's passion for nurturing community is woven into our global leadership pattern again.
Jessica: [00:08:57] That kind of brings me to that point in your book, where you talk about power and redefining power as, power with, versus power over. And perhaps the power over sentiment is what drives us to try and solve or resolve problems through war and domination and how the Women of Spirit and Faith and how Divine Feminine as a concept is beginning to reframe this term, power and kind of unpacking why that's so important.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:09:33] Yes, Women of Spirit and Faith from day one, has been continuous experiment in shared leadership, horizontal, circular, leadership. We have no president. We have no executive director. We make all of our decisions in circle and we do that through relationship, deep listening, sitting still and doing nothing, when we're not sure what to do next. We've grown comfortable with not knowing the answers and with waiting until we are sure about our next step. That is a completely different model of power and leadership. What we have found is that our power collectively, when we share that power equally and we surrender to the mystery that lays at the center of our circle, that is when we make decisions, craft projects, anchor gatherings that end up being truly powerful and transformative. There's something new that's created in the center of that circle and that's what we need more of.
Jessica: [00:11:26] I think it's very interesting too, to touch on those spaces of silence or of surrendering to an unknowing, maybe in the more cerebral sense, when you're trying to problem solve together and allowing for that space to really listen and feel more into getting these calls, downloads or intuition. But creating space to be able to have that connection seems really important and also seems really intuitive to women, when they do gather together in circle. Even in that geometric formation, immediately elicits that type of process.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:12:03] Yes
Jessica: [00:12:04] And I think that's very much related to how you're defining the Divine Feminine. So perhaps we can speak more to that piece of bringing in the divine aspect into understanding our nature and how to become leaders or powerful people in the world, with strong voices.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:12:25] Yes. I believe that the most important thing that has been missing, has been invisible, she's always been here, but she's been driven underground, I mean literally driven underground, is the Divine Feminine and that the possibility that women carry within them, a divine spark. When in the Abrahamic faiths, God is always languaged as masculine, is always referred to as Father, son, he or him and never with a feminine reference. There are a lot of men, good wonderful well-intentioned, heart centered, open spirited men, who have told me, "Well, that's just for convenience. We all know that God isn't a man." But you cannot underestimate the impact of 2000 years of that kind of languaging, on girls and women who feel somehow further away from God, because they are not a he, him, father or son.
[00:13:56] So reclaiming our sacred leadership, spark of divinity, spiritual authority as women, is really difficult I think and it's subtle, subversive and it's really important. I grew up in a Wisconsin centered Lutheran Church which is a very conservative Christian place. And God was an angry God. The dominant theme of my childhood in that church was, God forgive me, a poor miserable sinner, when in my heart, I knew a god that was very different, a God that was loving and welcoming. And it wasn't until I was in my 50s that I began to hear women talk about God as She. I have a friend Meredith Tenney. I'll never forget the first day that Meredith was telling me a story about how she tried to do something that she thought was a divine assignment and she thought she'd failed at it. She went outside and she sat down on a bench and she said, "Well Mom, another failed assignment." And that day was a game changer for me, because I realized that I wanted that Mom. I wanted a God that I could come to and say, "I failed Mom" and I could crawl up in her lap and she would still love me. That was so powerful for me and I have been curled up in the lap of that mother ever since. It has changed everything for me. She is available to all of us, to men and to women, that nurturing, unconditionally loving mother and we all need her desperately.
Jessica: [00:16:20] Thank you very much. So in practice then, in terms of connecting with her or having more of an open conversation with the divine, what are some ways that you would recommend someone connecting in this way, that's been so conditioned towards the more masculine God, in the more traditional sense?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:16:42] Well, on your own, in your own private time and private space, you can begin talking to her. You can find whatever words feel comfortable to you, but you can try using she and her to talk about God, in your small circles where it's safe and feels comfortable and by yourself. In your own meditation and prayer, you can begin to visualize her as a woman. You can do art. I've done about fifty paintings, one of them is on the easel behind me, that are all explorations of the Divine Feminine. They come to me in dreams and in moments of inspiration or I'll see an image in my mind's eye. Then I go to my canvas and try to recreate it. You can go to nature, she's in nature everywhere. Just sit still in nature and connect with her energies, voices, messages. You can go to the ocean, one of my favorite practices, because I can walk to the ocean from my house. I go down and I build altars from stone and sticks, right along the shoreline where the rising tide is going to swallow them. They are my gifts and offerings to her and I say prayers as I build these altars. You can write poetry to her. There are all kinds of ways but it's mainly listening to what feels most comfortable for you today, as a way to enter into communion, community, connection, relationship with the Divine Feminine. As you do that, step by step you'll get more comfortable. I got to the point where I was deeply immersed in the Divine Feminine, in the work I was doing with Gather the Women and Women of Spirit and Faith and I was still raising my children in a traditional church. I would sing the hymns and I would sing out loud, she instead of he. People would turn and look at me, like what did you just say. And it was like, I'm sorry but I have to do this. This is what feels authentic for me.
Jessica: [00:19:27] Yes, I think that's the big point too. It's a feeling, what feels authentic for you and that is in your creativity. So making art and being out in nature, that's when you're more in tune, it seems, with your intuitive selves, versus reading the scripture and sort of following the rules and letting that inner voice retreat somewhere else, while you just stay in your more, [00:19:53] tentacle [0.1] mode, I guess it really is. So I think that makes a lot of sense to me. I'm curious too, in your group Women of Spirit and Faith, because you talk about that being two streams threading together, one Women of Spirit and one Women of Faith. I was wondering if there's any conflict between a woman who is more towards the women of faith side, that might be following a religious background a little bit more strictly and starting to break out and invite in the Divine Feminine, which is part of religion for sure too. But I'm wondering if there's ever that feeling of betraying a certain piece of themselves by calling the Divine Feminine.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:20:37] I think that there is a tension that exists within the church itself and there is a tension that can exist within the individual. But what we have seen now, beginning in 2009 at that Parliament in Melbourne where Women of Spirit and Faith was born, the Divine Feminine was the rock star of that parliament. There were events on the Divine Feminine that were so well attended that they had to move them to bigger rooms, because the 200 person room where they had set up this workshop, wasn't going to hold the 500 hundred people who were standing out in the hallway waiting to get in. So there was evidence at that parliament of a hunger for the Divine Feminine and it was coming from a lot of women and men who are in traditional religions but are hungry for bringing balance within those religions. One of the things that's begun to happen now, is that the non-canonical Gospels, these ancient texts that have been discovered in the desert, the nag Hammadi documents and others, have introduced us to gospels that are not in the Bible. They were edited out of the Bible in the fourth century by the Nicaea Council. It was determined, we don't need these, they're not right. But many of them reference Mary Magdalene and other women as being central characters in Christ's story, people who walk side by side with him, preached side by side with him and with John the Baptist. Women were major figures in early Christianity. They were co-leaders in those early days and that tradition is beginning to seep back in to Christianity, in many different ways.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:23:06] My friend Kay Lindahl, the co-creator of Women of Spirit and Faith, the co-editor of that book with me, is deeply rooted in her Episcopal faith. She sees herself as building a bridge between the traditional understanding of the Gospels and these new gospels that are now being explored and discovered and she has begun bringing those gospels into her church and finding curiosity, hunger, concern and fear of knowing if that means [they] have to give up what [they] have understood, studied, learned and revered for [their] entire life. Divine Feminine answer to that would be, absolutely not. Nobody has to give up anything. There's space here for the both and. That is always her answer.
Jessica: [00:24:20] That makes so much sense and it is such an expansive time too, so to stay boxed into something that was written thousands of years ago, that was part of a story that's ever evolving, just as we as humanity are ever evolving, we as a consciousness are ever evolving. So these new downloads, messages and energetic pulls towards the other or something that we need to sort of rebalance, which really has been this concept of Divine Feminine. Not even the concept, the reality that's always [00:24:53] listed [0.5] that's been pushed underground as you mentioned. We're starting to feel that real need and desire to call that back into the way that we interpret the world and create in the world. So I think it makes sense for us to have the attitude of openness, rather than clinging to and feeling fearful, which is understandable, because it is a new concept for so many, yet it's super ancient and ingrained in our own personal space too.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:25:24] Yes
Jessica: [00:25:27] It's really fascinating. I think the work that you're doing with Women of Spirit and Faith is bridging that and it's an invitation really, to all come together and recognize this force that we need to draw more attention to and allow that to happen. So I think that makes so much sense.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:25:46] Well, what draws us together is our concern for the future, our children, the next seven generations, our planet, the animals and the species that are dying off at the rate of hundreds a day. That's what is motivating women and driving women and they come from all different directions, with different kinds of belief systems, but they want to serve, they want to help. And, one of the things that we say in this book, we use [00:26:25] Meg Weekly's [0.9] definition of leadership, 'a leader is anyone who's willing to help'. By that definition, millions of women are leaders on this planet right now.
Jessica: [00:26:42] That's very true. Also, you talk in your book about one of the pillars of Women of Spirit and Faith, is self-care and how that's an integral piece to honing in and amping up our power and leadership skills as women. Can you elaborate a bit more about that, the importance of self-care?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:27:07] Well, I don't know anyone really who would argue that women carry a lot every day on their shoulders. They multitask, carry the role often of wife, mother, sister, career and then the service, this call to service, whether that manifests locally in their own communities, at their children's school, at their church or they are helping. They're always helping. They're always taking care of others and they do that really well. But often they do it at the expense of their own energy, self-care and well-being. The same way the airlines tell us every time, "put on your own oxygen mask first and then help the people around you", women need to replenish themselves. They need to fill their own tank, with whatever does that for them. Whether that's walks in nature, chocolate, I love dark chocolate. It's a very important part of Women of Spirit and Faith. It's always on our altar when we gather, it's in the center of our circle. Whatever [self-care] means to you, whatever you can sense intuitively that you are missing in your own soul, hearts, body, you need to do that for yourself. You need to carve out that time to nurture yourself in that way, because the odds are, none of the people in your life are going to do it for you and you need to make it a priority and it's not self-indulgence. One of the things that we acknowledged right away, is that the demands on women and women's lives, are such that they get pulled away from the circle from time to time, because there's a death or birth in the family, there's a crisis in the family or the community and then they come back. So, our organization is this living, breathing, organism of women who step out for a while, to give birth and breastfeed for two years and then they come back when they can. When they come back, they're a different person for that experience, enrichment and that learning that they've had and what they've tapped into through that experience. So, our organization thinks of itself more as an organism than as an organization. That always makes me smile when I say that because one of my friends, every time she would try to quote me on that, would end up saying orgasm instead of organism. And she was a feisty juicy elder in our midst, and it happened every time. But there is a relationship there because that ecstasy, release [and] intense connection with your own sexuality that is an important part of that nurturing, as you well know.
Jessica: [00:31:12] Yes. That's such an interesting point about self-care and self-love and how no one else would be able to do that for you, but yourself and carving out space to be able to give to yourself in that way is also part of your connecting with the Divine Feminine within yourself, I think. Because I think even when you were talking too about hearing the call or being connected to the intuitive voice, sometimes when we do retreat to take care of ourselves, is when we can hear that the loudest. So it always ends up serving us in our more active, outward facing self life to really make that space to care deeply for ourselves. We're usually alerted pretty quickly when we don't do that. We get injured or we get really sick. There's always something in our body that will tell us, "Hey, you waited too long, it's time to do this thing now."
Kathe Schaaf: [00:32:12] Yes absolutely.
Jessica: [00:32:17] So as you know, as I mentioned on our pre-interview, we've been researching the benefits of vaginal steaming, which is an ancient feminine self-care practice with physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. I'm curious if you've heard of this practice before and what you think of it.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:32:34] Well I hadn't heard of it before until you contacted me and so I read about [vaginal steaming] and I think that's wonderful. I think any time that we can reach back and pull forward into our current lives and time, ancient wisdom [and] practices that were multi-dimensional [and] have physical, emotional and spiritual benefits, that is healing and it restores wholeness to the feminine. So I applaud your work with this and I wish you all the best. And I love the way it interrelate. When we create a circle, we create a space. It's a womb space and things are born in that sacred space. So the idea of treating [the vagina] as sacred by cleansing and nurturing it with healing steam, makes perfect sense to me.
Jessica: [00:33:57] I'm glad to hear this. I would love to get you to try it someday. I felt the same way. We're just learning that this is an ancient feminine ritual and it's rooted in so many different cultures all over the world. That means it must have been intuited somehow, because they're geographically unrelated places that we've researched, that had this tradition as part of their history. So I think that it's really interesting to uncover these practices and use our voices to share their benefits once again, as ancient feminine healing wisdom. So I'm glad to hear that. It really does align with activating the Divine Feminine and tuning into that voice and self-care and it has a lot of physical benefits as well. But I think those core conceptual benefits are the most fascinating ones and the most needed. I think too, even talking more about meditation, because I know you speak to that a bit. Do you think having a regular time for grounding meditation with the womb space, to develop this deeper connection to the Divine Feminine, is an important practice to have regularly, kind of as you go to church every Sunday or something that's more of a ritual? Why do you think cultivating that connection within yourself and with the Divine is important for women?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:35:31] Well obviously we live in a world that the demands for our attention have ratcheted up. When I compare my childhood and what it was like growing up in the early 1950s in Wisconsin, with what my children's lives are, where they're constantly in connection with the world with their devices. My computer just dinged at me and let me know that a message came in, just in time to remind me that the world is out there and its barking at me all the time. It more important than ever to carve out time and space for silence and to just close your eyes and focus on your breath and be in silence. And some people call it meditation. That word scares some people. It's one of the things that we learned at Women of Spirit and Faith early on. When we do one of our gatherings, we always work with questions. We've learned that we develop clusters of questions where we ask the same question in three different ways, because the first way, we'll turn off 40% of the people in our audience, the second way we'll turn off 20% and everybody hears words differently. I think that a lot of people get scared by this word meditation, like it's some sort of strict thing, you have to do it a certain way and it sounds intimidating. But to just have a daily practice of going somewhere and being silent for however long, you can do that. We begin every one of our conference calls with two minutes of silence, rung in and out by a bell, so that we all get centered and grounded together on that call. We have that time to sync into space together. We do that on our zoom and telephone conference calls, and when we gather together in person. We incorporate silence into everything that we do because there is a way, I think, that people are afraid of silence. They are afraid they're wasting time because there's all kinds of thoughts nibbling away at their brain. But there's nothing more important right now, than taking a moment to be with yourself, honor yourself and to honor the Divine, however you understand that, whatever that means to you and express your gratitude.
Jessica: [00:38:43] Something else you talk about too is, how do we stand for the greatness in each other, as another aspect of female empowerment and development of feminine leadership in the world. Can you define what that means and how we do that as well?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:39:04] One of the byproducts of the suppression of feminine voices, wisdom and leadership was a competitiveness that grew up in the community of women, where there was a scarcity mentality, there wasn't enough to go around, so we competed with one another. I had the opportunity several times, to visit Istanbul and the haram quarters at the Palace. You can feel the competitiveness within those walls, of those women who were literally confined behind walls for the pleasure of man. The competitiveness for who is going to get the jewelry, the money, who was going to get chosen, who is going to give birth to the son. All of that culture is overlaid on all of us. It's in our DNA somewhere. So the most important thing we need to do is lift one another up, to cheer our sisters and celebrate their successes. There is more than enough to go around, and we stand for the greatness of each other. That is essential going forward, that we celebrate each other.
Jessica: [00:40:54] Like the voice of the Divine Feminine, in order for that voice to become more powerful in the world, we as women become louder when we're supporting each other and when we see another that is in need of that lifting up, because they don't necessarily have the confidence because they've been living in a hyper-competitive world and made to think that they're not good enough and not perfect enough, that it's our responsibility, in a sense, to empower each other and see the greatness in each of us as much as we see it in ourselves. That seems like a super important concept and I really do feel like that is happening amongst women now. I'm having a great time as a result of that, so I hope everyone else is feeling that too and that we continue to do that for each other and for the men also. But I think it starts with us.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:41:53] I believe that. I also believe that there's something much bigger at work, because what we're beginning to model is an alternative to patriarchy and a hierarchical system that oppresses a lot of people for the benefit of a few at the top. When we began to model a more egalitarian, compassionate form of community, we begin to create the new and offer people alternatives. We've seen a lot of women's organizations [which] form with wonderful goals and then they proceed to operate exactly the way the patriarchal world has always operated. They use Robert's Rules of Order at their meeting. They have a president at the top. They have an executive committee. There's all kinds of competitiveness and talking behind people's backs: a very dysfunctional masculine model. It's an opportunity for women, women's groups and organizations to throw all those rules out the window and sit in a circle and say, "How do we want this to be? What kind of culture do we want to create here?" We can write any rules we want to write, or we can have no rules. Every time a group of women come together and begin to function in that way, new possibilities are seeded in the world that can that get communicated like dandelion puffs. They blow around and they land somewhere where you'd never expect. They take root and they communicate new ideas. So, that's the other powerful potential that women are holding right now, not just to lead, but to lead differently. To lead from their hearts, to lead with compassion. To listen to one another [and] their own inner voices and to listen to the divine.
Jessica: [00:44:45] That's really such a beautiful way to put it too, because I think a lot of women and people out there are generally really complaining about the way things are right now, saying, "Oh, the system is corrupt. I don't get to do this, I don't get to do that. I don't like the way this feels". But we can spend so much energy in that space. But there are so many opportunities in this moment to just be the change and start to join groups that are behaving in kin to the Divine Feminine and start to make these practices part of your own personal daily life, rather than focusing on thinking someone else is going to have to make this change for you to be able to live in it. You just think of living it, and as you say, those seeds begin to spread and you connect and collaborate with more people that are super attracted to that shift in consciousness and then it becomes a reality. So rather than waiting for the president of the United States to change things, there are amazing groups out there right now that are just growing and growing in numbers and we start to shift them where the spotlight really is. Really ultimately, we're all in control of our own reality in that way, which is super exciting.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:46:04] Exactly. Kay Lindahl and I wrote a blog a month ago or so on our website, where we talked about the Women's March that's going to happen on January 19 in Washington and then all over the world probably again. We talked about the fact that, let's not show up to protest. Let's not show up to be angry. Let's not show up to beat against the walls of the patriarchy. Let's show up and show the world what a new model of feminine leadership looks, sounds and feels like and be creative, silent and spiritual and just create a new image of what feminine leadership looks like. It doesn't look like this. It has a lot of different faces. Let's show all those other faces, the faces of potential new ways of doing things, new ways of leading, new practices that will heal the world from the bottom up, from the grassroots up.
Jessica: [00:47:25] So as Women of Spirit and Faith, will you be at the Women's March as an organization or is this...?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:47:33] Individually we will be, but we're not telling anybody where to go or what to do. That is not our style.
Jessica: [00:47:43] You're arming everyone with picket signs.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:47:43] We come with curiosity to say, "What are you going to do? I want to hear about it and affirm everybody's individual choices to march or not to march and where they march and how they march and what their sign says.
Jessica: [00:48:04] I just love this idea though, of everyone showing up there with the intention of modeling the Divine Feminine, rather than of angry women beating down the doorsteps. I think that's great. And it would be awesome to be able to spread that message to everyone.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:48:23] That's how the change will happen. We're seeing it all around us. Those rigid old systems are crumbling, they are imploding and collapsing on each other and it's creating a lot of chaos, fear, discomfort and anxiety for a lot of people. There are a lot of women who can offer an antidote to that and a space to exhale, be heard and valued. You can just feel the difference of that energy than somehow feeling like it's your responsibility to tear down those walls. Years ago I heard a quote attributed to Buckminster Fuller. Now I love Bucky Fuller and I love so many things that he said. I've never been able to find any proof that he said this, but I hope he did, because I love it. It's, 'don't worry about killing off the dinosaurs. Go build yourself a gazelle'. That's what I think the women are doing. They are building flocks and flocks of gazelles; herds of them, billions of them and they're all different shapes and sizes and they're all over the world and creating alternatives, while the dinosaurs tail flails about wildly in its death throws.
Jessica: [00:50:21] That is a great image. I love it. I think that really is the way forward, to just start to be and create the reality, that is taking on more of the Divine Feminine aspects of life and it's all around us and every living breathing thing. So it's not something that we're even inventing out of nowhere.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:50:46] No, she's always been here. Years ago I was at a Gather the Women event in Seattle, this was probably in 2006 or so, and a young woman who was there told us about a vision that she had had. In that vision she was in [the] deep woods and she came upon this ancient massive tree and there was an opening at the base of the tree and she crawled in this opening. There tangled in the roots of the tree, was the Divine Mother and she was depleted. She was worn out and she was alone. She picked her up and she carried her out of that cavern and as she emerged onto the surface of the earth, she saw women coming from all directions, millions and millions of women. Each one of them carried a piece of her and we are all together remembering her and we each carry our piece. You carry your piece with vaginal steaming, women's sexuality and health and reconnecting women with their bodies. I carry my peace with Women of Spirit and Faith. Millions of other women carry their piece and that's what's so exciting.
Jessica: [00:52:42] Very exciting. Lastly, I'm curious how our audience can get in touch and involved with your organization, Women of Spirit and Faith. Is it a close group of people?
Kathe Schaaf: [00:52:55] We are not a closed group but at the same time we're not a traditional kind of organization in a lot of ways. We don't have a membership, but we have a website www.womenofspiritandfaith.org. On that website you can sign up for our newsletter, you can subscribe to our newsletter. It comes out roughly every four to six weeks. That newsletter keeps you up to date on any new initiatives that we're interested in, new events that we're hosting, co-hosting or collaborating with people on, any great new resources we've become aware of. Our website in and of itself has a lot of resources about how to do local circles, how to get connected with other organizations that do circle work. In the past week we've had we've anchored some larger gatherings, we've called them Alchemy Conferences. We had one in 2011 and 2014. In 2015 we were involved with the Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City and with hosting a pre-Parliament event for women there. Right now, we don't have any large gatherings on the calendar, although we had a core circle call just this past week, where the seeds of our next one may have drifted into our consciousness. But we don't have any kind of timeline for that. I would say it might be 2020 actually before that actually takes form. But yes, you're welcome to come and look around. You can get in contact with us there, through our firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
Jessica: [00:55:13] Kathe, thank you very much. I'll be sure to stay in touch that's for sure.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:55:17] Oh absolutely.
Jessica: [00:55:18] This has been such a pleasure. I really appreciate your time, wisdom and all that you've share, always. I look forward to being connected and to sharing more of this with more people that are connected with us that way. So thank you again so very much.
Kathe Schaaf: [00:55:35] Oh it's been delightful. Thank you so much. I've enjoyed every minute and I can't wait for more.
Jessica: [00:55:42] Thank you everyone for tuning in. We'll see you next time.
Certified Fertility Awareness Educator and Holistic Health Practitioner
The Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign of Your Health
Jessica [00:00:02] Hi everyone. Jessica here. If you've been following our Leiamoon page for a while, you know very well that we are passionate about empowering women to better know and care for their bodies. In our research we came across the work of likeminded expert Lisa Hendrickson-Jack, who I have the honor of interviewing today to share with you, our audience. Lisa is a Certified Fertility Awareness Educator and Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner who teaches women to chart their menstrual cycles for natural birth control, conception, and monitoring overall health.
[00:00:35] In her new amazing book, The Fifth Vital Sign, Lisa debunks the myth that regular ovulation is only important when you want children. We are recognizing that the menstrual cycle is a vital sign. She draws heavily from current scientific literature and presents an evidence based approach to fertility awareness and menstrual cycle optimization. She also hosts the amazing Fertility Friday podcast, which is a weekly radio show devoted to helping women connect to their fifth vital sign by uncovering the connection between the menstrual cycle, health, fertility and overall health. Lisa, thank you so much for being here and for all that you share.
Lisa [00:01:13] Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Jessica [00:01:17] So can you start by just introducing yourself, telling us about your background and how you came to write this book?
Lisa [00:01:24] Yes. I mean with my story--my experience with fertility awareness is unique in that I discovered it when I was really young. So I was just out of high school, I think my first or second year of university when I discovered fertility awareness; so I was about 18 or 19 years old. Like many women, I'd been put on the pill for painful, heavy periods in high school. I mean, I didn't really know how else to handle it and I probably said three words to the doctor and he was like already writing the prescription. So I wasn't using the pill for birth control, I was using it for pain management. And every time I would come off of it for whatever reason, just to take a break or something like that, the pain would be there and it would be the same or worse. Also, because I wasn't using it for birth control, I wasn't always taking it at the same time every day, but I was always the nerd that I am, so I had read the entire inserts and I knew that if you weren't taking it the right time it wouldn't be as effective and I felt like I would always be nervous about whether or not it was working when I actually did need birth control.
[00:02:30] Around the age when I actually did need birth control, I was kind of like, okay, so if I don't fully trust the pill, I'm always going to use condoms. Then I was like, but if I'm always going to use condoms why use the pill because I was also kind of nervous about my fertility in the future, like I didn't want kids at 18. But I knew I wanted them at some point and I had some reservations just about--I saw some of the members of my family have challenges with fertility, I knew I had these really heavy painful periods. My mom had struggled with fibroids for years and ended up having a hysterectomy and I kind of just had the sense of like, this isn't normal and I really want a different future, like I want to figure out what's going on.
[00:03:10] So it's right around that interesting time of contemplation of what am I going to do that I discovered fertility awareness. So for me, that was the first time that I had ever learned that I wasn't fertile every day. So I distinctly remember in my junior high school education class that the teachers told us there were no safe days, we could get pregnant as women every single day regardless. So I just left that at that age and stage of my life feeling really terrified, scared that I could get pregnant at any time, not really understanding why there was this imminent threat but I didn't understand it. Then when I discovered fertility awareness it was like okay, there's only a short window of fertility, you can identify it by tracking your mucus and your cervical position and your temperature and you can use it as birth control and it's evidence base, there's science behind it, it's up to 99.4% effective. So I was like, yes that is what I want to do. .
[00:04:05] I like to share that because I was a young woman; I was in my late teens, early 20s and so I ran up, taking charge of your fertility. I also happen to live in Edmonton Alberta and that's where Justice Health Works for Women was located physically. So it just so happened that on my university campus there was a group of women who were trained teachers and were running monthly workshops. And so I attended and never stopped attending and eventually trained and started teaching; it's like they couldn't get rid of me. But that basically was my kind of window into this.
[00:04:44] And so fast forward a decade, I had used fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy throughout my entire 20s successfully, so I like to say that too because it works. When you learn how to use it correctly and you follow the rules and you continue to chart, it is an effective method of birth control as effective or equally to the pill. Then when my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family, we basically flipped the switch and had sex all the other days, had unpredictably sex. But basically just around that time, I was in my early thirties and I kind of looked around and realized that even though I had known this information all these years and had the privilege of teaching it to women, the average woman still has no idea how her cycle and body works, that she's not fertile every single day every cycle. And a lot of women are struggling to conceive and still not understanding even just like how to time sex accurately. So I felt this obligation to spread the word and out of that came the podcast and now the book. And so it's a really long answer to your question.
Jessica [00:05:54] No, no it's great. It really is amazing that at such a young age you have the foresight to research just a bit further or that maybe it was just this fateful event that on your college campus you also had the opportunity to connect with women that were teaching fertility awareness. So remembering on my college campus I think birth control pills were free and I remember my roommates being like, "Oh, we have to go down to the health center so we can get our birth control on our condoms." And I also had never really heard of the pill before that. And it just feels like it's so quick to be given away and prescribed to women at such a young age before we really have the right information about our bodies to make an informed decision. So it kind of feels like it's this intentional thing where they're like, okay here you go, get into this stuff because this will be the rest of your life. And so it feels like the work that you're doing is really trying to turn that on its head now and give women options without feeling like this is the only solution.
Lisa [00:06:55] It feels like there's this--kind of an addition to what you said, it's like this fear of--it's like if we tell women what's really going on then they'll know. So even among women who learn and understand the fertility awareness method, there's often this question of, should we be teaching it to teenage girls? How young should we be teaching it to them? And it's kind of like this fear that if we teach them that they're not fertile everyday, they're going to go and have sex. Well newsflash, they are already having sex. Right.
[00:07:24] But it's really just interesting this notion of wanting to suppress that truth because really, when you have the information, you're able to make better choices. So I'm with you, I don't really understand the hesitation of just making this information more accessible to women.
Jessica [00:07:42] Can you explain to us what fertility awareness method is and how do we do this?
Lisa [00:07:48] Yeah. In the most basic sense, fertility awareness is developing an understanding of your cycle so that you can identify which days of your cycle are fertile and which days are not. And then when you have that basic understanding of okay, this is how my cycle works, this is when I'm fertile, then you can choose whether you want to use that information to help you to avoid pregnancy naturally; so as an effective method of non-hormonal birth control. Or, if you're trying to conceive then helping you optimize, have sex at the correct time of your cycle. For some women who are trying to conceive, just by understanding the correct time will help them to conceive. Obviously fertility is complex, so it's not always that simple. But for a certain percentage of women, it's literally like, let's get the dates correct and they'll be able to conceive. And then a third, just in general, because your menstrual cycle is connected to your overall health, you can also chart your cycles just to get a sense of what's happening health wise. And as you make different changes, diet, lifestyle, different things, you can actually see that reflected in your cycle if you're on the right track. So for some women they're just going to follow their cycles for health reasons.
Jessica [00:09:00] The title of your book The Fifth Vital Sign is basically saying that our menstrual cycle is a vital sign. Can you break that down a bit more? What are more typical vital signs and what makes a menstrual cycle also a vital sign?
Lisa [00:09:15] Well I mean there's a growing number of health care practitioners who are acknowledging that the menstrual cycle is a vital sign. Essentially a vital sign is a measure of how your body is functioning. The most common vital signs that we're familiar with are say, your blood pressure, your heart and respiratory rates, how many breaths that you take each minute and your body temperature as well. So those would be the most common. We all have a general understanding that there's a normal range of each of these signs and if you were to go to your doctor and one of those signs either too high or too low, not only would it give the doctor specific information that there's something wrong, but it would also give a specific indication for the doctor of like okay, typically when the blood pressure is elevated it could be these things. So then it gives a roadmap as to, we should be looking here. So the menstrual cycle does very much the same thing. When you're working with a person who has that insight of how the menstrual cycle could be related to help.
[00:10:22] Typically when I talk about the menstrual cycle, a lot of women just think you're period, right. So when I talk about the menstrual cycle as being a vital sign, I mean the whole thing. So it's not like you just have your period and then fast-forward and then the next one. In a healthy cycle, just to kind of take you through, the first day of your cycle is the first day of your period, your true flow. So I always say like when you actually have to get something to deal with it. So if you have a couple of days of spotting before your period starts then we wouldn't count those as the first day; we'd count the first day as the first day of flow. So, the whole menstrual cycle you have your period typically lasting anywhere from three to seven days. Then, as your period comes to an end you typically have a few days before you start to see your cervical mucus. So cervical mucus can either look like creamy white hand lotion or sometimes it can look like clear stretching kind of like raw egg whites or you go to the bathroom and it feels really slippery when you're wiping.
[00:11:22] But as you approach ovulation you would typically expect to see about two to seven days of cervical mucus. In a healthy cycle you would ovulate. So that's a really important aspect of it. Then after ovulation you would expect your period to come in 12 to 14 days or if your period doesn't come you would be pregnant. So there's basically two options there. So if I break that down into what happens in the preovulatory and post ovulatory phase, within each different aspect of that we can gain information about overall health. So if we look at the period, if the period is extremely heavy and painful you know that can give us some important information that could indicate a problem that we should be looking into. If your period is too light, that could indicate a hormonal imbalance or something like that. If you don't ever see cervical mucus at all that would indicate a potential issue with your cervical health. If you see mucus every single day, that could be an indication of something as simple as yeast infection or something more serious. Even abnormal cervical cells can come up with consistent water discharge throughout the cycle. If you're not ovulating that would give us an indication of something that's happening and also even just the length of your luteal phase, if you see spotting throughout your cycle. So it's just helpful to have that understanding of there is a normal and healthy cycle and there are normal and healthy parameters of that. If you're a cycle or certain aspects of your cycle regularly fall outside of that, I think that's important as well because every woman will have the occasional kind of random thing that happens in their cycle, so we can't necessarily say that if once you have some spotting that that indicates a huge problem because a lot of people will have spotting one. But if you look at the consistent patterns throughout your cycle, for many women especially women who are charting and pay attention to these things, there's many cases where those subtle changes in your cycle can be the early indication even before you would think that there's something wrong somewhere.
Jessica [00:13:27] What are the biggest disruptors then to what the normal cycle would be for a woman?
Lisa [00:13:35] I mean if you think about the menstrual cycle as a reflection of overall health then there's a lot of different aspects of just life that can affect it. So it could be something like stress. Chronic stress even can affect the cycle a bit differently versus acute stress. Then when I say stress, we often think of like bad, horrible boss or something but it could be even going on a vacation. If you get on a plane your body's all of a sudden 4000 feet in the air so your ovaries are kind of like what's up. So that could be a stress even though it's not 'bad'. So if you experience some sort of acute stress prior to ovulation it's really common for ovulation to be delayed a little bit if you have a health issue. So for example women with PCOS, PCOS is characterized by insulin resistance inflammation and that can disrupt ovulation, which is why women with PCOS, the characteristic PCOS cycle has a delayed ovulation. So women who fit that description typically have longer cycles. So it can be something like stress that can be something like a health condition that's happening in your body.
[00:14:47] When I'm working with women, I've seen women who have got issues. So for instance if a woman has some degree of IBS and she had some food sensitivities or allergies or something like that and she exposes herself to those foods that can affect her cervical mucus production. So I've seen women who, let's say, they have a sensitivity to like dairy, let's pick on dairy for example and they eat the dairy and they have the sensitivity to it, they have some degree of mucus throughout their cycle. Then if they stop consuming it for a while, they might see that shift back to a more normal mucus pattern. So those are just a few examples and I really could go on. If a woman has endocrine issues, thyroid issues, issues with the conversation that goes on between your hypothalamus pituitary ovaries, so HPO access to this regulation. It's just really interesting. And so you can't necessarily look at the chart and say okay, this is exactly what's going on, right. We can't make like a quote unquote diagnosis. You need your doctor to do the test to make an accurate diagnosis. But you can get those subtle and kind of specific indicators that would let you know, okay, you should look here to see if there could be something wrong or you should look at this or this isn't normal. You should know that that's not what we would expect to see .
Jessica [00:16:08] Some when your menstrual cycle is off, which you can tell by regular tracking, that's an indication that there might be some other aspects of your health that is out of whack and doesn't necessarily mean it's only a reproductive system that's misbehaving. It's more of a response.
Lisa [00:16:26] Well yeah. I think that one of the myths just in general as women that we're working to overcome at this interesting phase--because right now it's a really great time for periods. Within the year there's been--I don't even know all the books that have come out about periods. But even just within the year there's a lot of women talking and writing about it. Periods, it feels like they're getting their moment and we're starting to really recognize that the menstrual cycle is important. But there's this myth that your cycle only matters when you're trying to have kids and it's really only related to reproduction. So if you're not actively trying to have kids today who cares, you can shut down your cycle with hormonal birth control. It won't have any effect on your body and all that kind of stuff.
[00:17:10] My analogy for that is if you or I were to go to the car dealership, so we wanted to buy a car or something like that, I could get the car with air conditioning or I could get it without air conditioning or I could get it with heated seats or without heated seats and it wouldn't affect engine functioning. And somehow, we think of our ovaries that way. We think that we can turn them on and off with hormonal birth control or if our cycle stop for whatever reason, we kind of think that it doesn't affect our regular functioning because we kind of think that our ovarian function and our menstrual cycle is only related to having kids. But when you look at what happens when you interfere with normal ovarian function--so when women have disrupted cycles such as is the case with PCOS and they have really delayed ovulation.
[00:18:01] So a healthy cycle you would expect it to be somewhere between about 24 and 35 days with an average of about 29 days. So in that type of cycle you would expect that the first half of the cycle, your ovaries are producing estrogen, so your first half of the is characterized by a higher estrogen production. Then after ovulation you produce progesterone and so it's not like a perfectly equal balance or anything, but you would expect to have about as many days where you're producing significant estrogen as you would where you're producing significant progesterone and these hormones have different roles and they work together. Progesterone mitigate some of the negative effects of estrogen, estrogen is characterized by cell proliferation. I mean I could go on. But an example of PCOS for example, then a woman would typically have cycles that are longer. So if her cycles are 45 days or-- I actually spoke to women yesterday who told me that when she was trying to conceive, her cycles were like 75 days kind of on average. So that would mean in a 75 days cycle you would potentially have like 63 days of preovulatory, because your period comes after ovulation and the second half of your cycle is typically about two weeks long. So 62 days let's say of estrogen dominance and then you have 12 to 14 days of progesterone. So women with PCOS for example are at an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer because they're just exposed to estrogen for such a long period of time.
[00:19:36] So it's just to show that there's more to your cycle than just your ability to reproduce. And another example I'll share is hypo so I make a memory. So that is a different situation where--so typically women with hypothalamic amenorrhea, it just means that they're not ovulating and so they're not menstruating. And it's typically related to a combination of over exercise, undernutrition and stress. So basically something is happening where the connection between the brain and the ovaries is not happening. And when women lose their periods for say six months or more and this continues--so they're just not ovulating, they're not menstruating, they're at an increased lifetime risk of developing osteoporosis. So it turns out that our ovarian cycle is related to how we develop and maintain bone mass. And so obviously my bone development is not related to my ability to bear children. So it's really helpful to get out of this myth that our cycles only matter when we're trying to have babies and understand that they're important outside of that.
Jessica [00:20:46] So then that's amazing. Of course it's all connected. So I guess even in your book the way that you frame what synthetic hormones and birth control pills do to what we believed we're regulating our cycle are making it actually sort of mute in the way it communicates with the rest of our body. So maybe you can speak a bit more on that because what you're just describing, how all of these different systems within our bodies are communicating with each other, just like the car dealership analogy, like what happens when he just decides to a la carte pick and choose which systems we shut down.
Lisa [00:21:33] Well I mean, I feel like a lot of what I do is myth busting. And so when I was writing the book, I did some research just into the history of the pill just to kind of be able to explain it in a concise and accurate way. And so as I was looking at the research, when the pill was first developed before, they brought it to the market they did some testing So just picture it's the late 50s, there's never been a pill on the market before. So the women have no precedent for this. So in one of the early iterations of the pill, the individuals who created it, they gave the women the pill but they hadn't created the withdrawal bleed yet. So there was no break. They just took the pill and they just stopped menstruating.
[00:22:17] So one of the myths about the pill and other types of hormonal birth control is that it regulates the menstrual cycle. So if your cycles are irregular you can take this pill and then magically your cycles are just regular now. But what the pill does is actually suppress ovulation in most cases, so when you're not obviating you don't have a period. So the women in the late 1950s and that early kind of pill development phase, some of those women were actually trying to conceive. So when they were creating this drug, they were also trying to kind of maybe kick start the cycle. So there were women in there who were actually trying to get pregnant. So when they saw that their periods weren't coming, they thought they were pregnant and then the doctors were like, no you're not pregnant. This was because of this pill that you're taking. But the women, there was no precedent for this. So they were like, I don't know what you're talking about, I'm pregnant. The only reason I wouldn't have my period is either because I'm pregnant, sick or breastfeeding and so I must be pregnant. So yeah, the women were absolutely devastated and when they actually discovered that it was the drug that was causing them not to have their period.
[00:23:27] So what happened was, from the very beginning of when the pill was first released on the market in 1960, what they did is that they created that fake 28 day cycle. So you know, any woman who's ever taken pills out of a pack will know that you take it maybe for 21 days or the number of days might be a little bit different. But you take it for 21 days and then you get seven days of a sugar pill or just seven days of not taking it and then you get this bleed. So that's how from the very beginning basically women were lied to about how the pill works and told that it was regulating the cycle and what it's really doing is halting your cycle completely so you don't have one anymore. Then when you stop taking the synthetic hormones--so the synthetic estrogen, progestin and the pill are not the same as what's in our bodies. So even when you hear someone saying, oh it's just estrogen and progesterone in the pill, it isn't. In order to patent and sell drugs you have to create hormones that are similar enough to our natural hormones estrogen and progesterone to fit into our receptors, but different enough so that you can patent them and sell that right.
[00:24:37] Basically, from the very beginning we were told that this is what's happening and even to this day when I try to bust some of those myths and create posts and post them and talk about this, there's always a lot of women that--because we've never been told this, so there's always a lot of women who are like, what do you mean? You know, my whole life I thought that this was regulating my period. I thought this was the solution to my irregular cycles and I'm bleeding, so how is this not a real period. And so you only have a true menstrual period after you ovulate about 12 to 14 days later.
Lisa [00:25:14] Fascinating. And same with IUD then too. I mean I guess most IUD eliminate the period altogether. Women are celebrating that and it's also advertised in such a way where it is like this miracle thing, and I think the research that you're presenting is that this is not healthy for us. It's really hard to convince a great population of women now that feel like this is a victory, that it's actually disrupting so many other pieces of our whole being that are shutting down now. So what would you say to those women?
Lisa [00:25:57] Well I just want to mention with the IUD, so there's different types of formulations. So the most common and widely used types of birth control, whether it's the pill, the patch or the ring are typically a combination of synthetic estrogen and progestin that work primarily by suppressing ovulation. But when you look at the research, ovulation isn't necessarily suppressed 100% of the time. So the three main modes of action would be; (a) suppressing ovulation. So shutting down ovarian function and basically interfering with the normal function of your endocrine system because that's what you need to do to prevent pregnancy right. If you stop ovulation you can't get pregnant.
[00:26:39] But in addition to that, one of the other modes of action is to prevent the production of fertile quality cervical mucus, so when you're on the pill or other types of hormonal birth control, it actually fills your cervix with a thick mucus plug, which you would naturally produce that outside of your fertile window. But basically the pill just prevents that from changing. So it's just always like that. Then the third mode of action would be that when you're using hormonal types of birth control, the uterine lining--so if they measure the thickness of your uterine lining via ultrasound, it's very very thin. So in order to get pregnant your uterine lining has to be a certain level of thickness and so these drugs prevent the lining from ever fully forming. Even if, for example you're using a type of birth control and you don't ovulate, there would still be these other two backup measures to really reduce the chance of you getting pregnant and having a successful pregnancy.
[00:27:35] With the IUD there's two main types of broad categories. There's hormonal and non-hormonal. And typically the hormonal IUD are progestin only. So there's no estrogen, so they don't always suppress ovulation. I think the myth though is that you get to keep ovulating and have your normal cycle. So when you look at the research about hormonal IUD there is a percentage of women who continue ovulating, there's a percentage of women who stop ovulating and there's a percentage of women who ovulate more sporadically. So maybe they ovulate every once in a while. So with the IUD one of the primary modes of action, the progestin releasing IUD, one of the primary modes of action is to prevent that uterine lining from ever fully forming and then there's other protests. So I just wanted to clarify that because I know I often get questions about that because there are women who choose the IUD, for instance, the hormonal IUD because they're able to continue ovulating. So it's helpful to clarify that it doesn't mean that everything is happening normally because you are still getting a dose of hormones and often those IUDs are promoted as low dose. And it's interesting, you can call it what you want, it has to have enough hormones to prevent you from getting pregnant, so we can call it high dose or low dose.
[00:28:50] We can look at the doses but it has to be enough to disrupt the normal system enough to prevent you from getting pregnant. And also with IUD, I hear a lot of women talking about how it's like localized. So you have like a circulatory system, so it's not like the progestin just stays in your uterus, it moves around.
[00:29:12] But you asked a question. I kind of went on a tangent about IUD but you had asked a question about how--maybe refresh me.
Jessica [00:29:20] Well I was just kind of curious because there are so many different types of contraception now that deals with hormones and some are kind of sold in a way that makes it seem like your cycle is still functioning as normal and like you answer the question. I mean it really was understanding which aspects it does sort of target to prevent pregnancy, which there is a spectrum of but what it's doing is it's shutting down pieces of what would naturally occur. So the fertility awareness method that you're talking about charting, that seems to be the one way that we can prevent pregnancy if that's the goal without disrupting all these other parts of our bodies. And that it's still how effective?
Lisa [00:30:09] Well, I mean there's been research done. So one of the research studies that I quote in the book if the Frank Herman study. In that study they had women, they tested the sympto thermal method of birth control so I teach a version of the sympto thermal method.
[00:30:24] All that means is that you're combining the symptoms, so your cervical mucus and your cervical position observations with the thermal, the temperature charting, so you're using both. And in that particular study they had women who were taught a specific method of charting by train instructors. The effectiveness when you teach yourself, I don't know that that's been studied necessarily in a scientific reliable way. But when these women who we're taught a specific method and they were following and accurately [charting] the effectiveness rate was 99.4%. So that's with correct, perfect use.
[00:31:00] So there's a difference between what they call user failure and method failure. Then there's a difference between like using the method correctly and not really charting and getting pregnant but you weren't really charting. So I think that it's helpful just to know that the user failure rate is different with any contraceptive methods. So even with the birth control pill the perfect use effectiveness rate is like 99 point something percent. But with the typical use it's more like 92% even with the birth control pill.
Jessica [00:31:36] Do you encourage your clients to use the fertility awareness method like other apps that you recommend? How do you get people to really commit to this?
Lisa [00:31:46] Well I mean, women who come to me they're typically like ready to go. By the time you get to me you're like on board. So the way that I think of it is that charting isn't for everybody, just like condoms aren't for everybody. Like everybody doesn't love [condoms]. It's like this dirty little secret, people don't want to talk about it. The pills isn't for everybody, the IUD isn't for everybody.
[00:32:09] So there's a reason why we have all of these different options when it comes to managing our fertility. And so I'm the first to say, and it might seem strange as a fertility awareness educator to be like, no charting isn't necessarily for every woman or for every point in your life. So for some women charting might be really appropriate at one stage of their life but at another stage of their life they might opt for a different method of birth control. So I think that that's just really important, I'm assuming we are all adults here or at least close to, so having the ability just to have that openness in terms of that conversation. Because charting your cycle, that appeals to a certain type of woman. This appeals to someone who's really interested in what's happening with her cycle, who is actually on some level really fascinated by it, she is highly motivated to not use hormones. And so for some women, there's some women who've had a really negative effect on birth control. There's a long list of side effects associated with hormonal birth control that we can go through, and not every woman has the same experience. Some women use it and really don't notice a lot of difference so maybe they notice after they come off the difference in how they feel, and their mood and energy and stuff like that. But other women they go on it and they immediately have a negative reaction. They are some women that just can't use birth control because it just causes such a negative reaction for them.
[00:33:29] So the type of woman who is interested in fertility awareness is often very motivated to do it. So I don't have to try to get women motivated because when they come to me, they're already motivated, they want to do this. And so really what it comes down to though, it sounds like a lot of work you know. Like you're checking for cervical mucus every day, you're checking your cervical position if you choose to, you're taking your temperature every day, you're writing it all down, you're interpreting the data, you're modifying your sexual activity. God forbid, what I mean like on some days you have to use protection, on some things don't. So there's all of these factors and so it can sound like it's really, really complicated. But what I always say is like, did you brush your teeth this morning? I'm guessing you did. And did anybody have to tell you? Did somebody have to harass you? You probably just picked up the toothbrush and did it because you've been doing it for so many years that you're just in the habit of it.
[00:34:25] So when you start charting part of the challenge is to develop those habits. But once you start charting your cycles, it's very similar to any other habit like brushing your teeth, where you're not going out of your way to check for cervical mucus. Like, I'm sure that everyone watching this went to the bathroom at some point today. Like no one had to tell you to wipe yourself. So you're just like paying attention when you wipe yourself, taking your temperature in the morning. It can be an inconvenience for some women, but for others it's literally just put the thermometer in there before you get out of bed. So it doesn't have to be this big crazy thing, it's literally just developing a habit. And so for the women who are interested in fertility awareness and feel that this is the right birth control method for them they just do it.
Jessica [00:35:13] Do you feel that the more data you get about your own cycle, the more you start to really appreciate it and enjoy it. There is this shift happening right now it seems and like the wave of women embracing their menstrual cycle and period and really appreciating the significance of seeing it.
Lisa [00:35:34] I think so but I think it can be--so one of the things that I see happening, when you discover that your cycles are more than just about having babies and you discover that your cycles are reflecting your health and that you can actually tell when you're fertile when you're not, it's obviously really exciting and something that most of us haven't been told. So we kind of get into this romanticized notion of this is amazing and beautiful, wonderful but not everyone's cycle looks like it does in the textbooks. So when you learn about fertility awareness, so if you read my book or you read Taking Charge of your Fertility or devour whatever resources on fertility awareness, you'll typically see like this picturesque 28 day cycle, ovulation happening around day 14. And a lot of women get into what I call rhythm method thinking, where they really think that they should be able to anticipate when ovulation is going to happen and think their cycles should be looking about the same all the time. But as we've talked about the cycles reflecting your overall health, there's a lot of women out there struggling with different challenges, whether it's hormonal imbalances, endocrine and gut issues. There's just a lot of different things that women are struggling with these days and any number of those things can cause you to see different patterns in your cycle. So I do think that what happens when you start charting, especially for women who continue and they chart for several cycles.
[00:36:59] Any woman who's charted her cycles for six months, a year or more, in my case almost 20 years, you start to see patterns but you also start to see that you have a lot more impact on your cycles and your health than you thought. So if you're charting your cycles let's say for two years or more or less, I'll just throw random number out there, then you've probably made a few changes here and there. Maybe you tried a different thing with your diet, maybe you added exercise took it away, maybe you started sleeping better or worse or you went through a stressful time or something like that. You really start to see how these things impact your cycle. And the term body literacy, that's a term that I became familiar with when I learned to teach women how to chart and became a fertility awareness educator. And I believe Laura Wersher was the first to--she coined that term of body literacy. In the general sense that just means having that awareness of your cycle, how it works, how to identify when you're fertile and also how the different things can affect your cycle. So the more you chart, the more you develop that body literacy. And it's very empowering because you start to realize that--I mean there's a lot of women who have had the experience of, I think there's something wrong with my cycle. I don't think my period should be this heavy, I don't think they should be this this way. I'm seeing this weird stuff but I don't think I should be seeing and you go to your doctor and you're either told go on the pill, there's nothing wrong with you, everything's fine whatever. You kind of dismiss this whole theme of the way medicine treats women a lot of the time. Hopefully that's changing but for now that seems to be the experience of a lot of women.
[00:38:39] When you start charting and you start to see, oh wow, if I drink wine a lot this is what happens, oh, if I kill myself at the gym for seven days straight every week, this is what happens to my cycle. Oh, if I had like a raging thyroid disorder, this is what happens to my cycle? Like if you start to see these things and then also if you start to make positive changes and you start to see your cycles get better, then all of a sudden you realize that you actually have the ability to impact your cycles in a positive way to impact your health. I feel like for a lot of women that's what they come to and that's why this can be so empowering and powerful for women, because it really kind of puts that power back in their hands where it belonged in the first place, to be able to really impact their own lives in a positive way if they want to.
Jessica [00:39:28] I really like the way you said that. Even just knowing that there is a normal cycle that we all aspire to, but that's not going to look the same for everyone and some people are in such difficult situations with their health that their cycle is just typically very painful and they hate it. So it's sort of through this method, being able to start to make those tiny steps and adjustments to make it just that much better, even if it's just by a percentage of the degree, that is really empowering to feel like you are the one that's in control of understanding how to make these positive impacts in how your menstrual cycle feels every month. I think we need more space to be able to experiment with that in our lives. And it's hard because I think the easy fix is to be taking more medication but it doesn't really get at the core issues that you're talking about.
Lisa [00:40:26] Even when you mention like painful periods, I think because sometimes it's just helpful to have somebody say out loud that although it's really common for women to have pain with periods it's not normal. So this is something that I say to a lot of my clients, it might not have been coming from one specific client experience. But I remember having conversations with one of my clients or several and checking in about the pain, like what is your period like, how painful is it on a scale of 1 to 10. And it was kind of like, you know, five or six and I'm like that's pretty significant. Well no, you know, my friend throws up when she has her period so it's totally fine, right. Because this is what we do, we downplay--I know somebody who was way worse than me. Mine is nothing. And then I kind of said well, what if your male partner had that degree of pain in his penis for a couple of days every month, how do you think he would feel? And of course she was like, Oh. And sometimes we need to throw it out of that context so that we can understand.
[00:41:27] Outside of menstruation, pain is typically considered to be a problem and considering that a huge percentage of women with severe period pain have underlying endometriosis, which can be an extremely debilitating condition that can really interfere with your day to day life and functioning and future fertility because it's associated with infertility. We should be actually paying attention to things like that and we shouldn't continue to perpetuate this idea that it's just normal for women to just have these miserable debilitating crippling periods and we should just be tolerating it. And for the record, I mean for a lot of women they find some relief with the birth control pill and with heavy medication. And obviously if you're in that type of pain you've got to--I'm not a proponent of using medicate, I'm just not a proponent of suffering. I had extremely painful periods for a long time. I remember before I had children and I had these horrible periods, I remember thinking to myself, it would just be like this all day thing, at the end I would be exhausted because it hurt so much. If I didn't take the medication in the window I was just out for the count.
[00:42:39] Eventually I would just like pass out and then wake up and the medicine--like it was literally ridiculous. And I remember thinking after waking up and being exhausted, all this pain and I'm like rolling around. I'm talking about it flippantly but it was really bad. I remember feeling like, I feel like I went through later and there's no baby. So it's like pointless pain for a reason and then now I do have two children so I've been through labor twice. The first time I went into labor. So with my eldest son, I literally didn't know I was in labor all day because I was like, it can't be labor my period pain hurts more than that. With labor I had these contractions and then I had like a break. Now I know that they were contractions before I didn't know that.
[00:43:24] This is the kind of thing that as women we actually just tolerate and think is normal. I'll never know if I have a touch of Endo because I mean when I describe I've described that to people a number of times even the health professionals, naturopaths and alternative health care professionals who are like, Lisa that sounds like it's pretty bad.
[00:43:43] I suppose the good news is that you can improve it. Pain, especially with menstruation is a sign of increased inflammation. If you look at the research women that have significant pain have a higher degree of the markers of inflammation like prostaglandins. And there's a lot of research to show that if you reduce the prostaglandins, if you think about all the things that could contribute to inflammation and actively work on reducing your exposure to those things and also address the inflammation specifically you can make a really significant impact on your pain. But I guess for me it's like bring it back to--it's really helpful I think for people to say out loud, look it's not normal to be in that much pain you know. Even if you've been in that pain every cycle for the past 10 years and you've just accepted it as part of life, I feel like it's always necessary for someone to stand up and say actually no, you shouldn't have to suffer like that.
Jessica [00:44:41] I think so many women have been told like, oh this is just the burden of being female. It's like part of your life now which is like a really sad way to look at it. And I think now that we're equipping ourselves with so many more tools to be able to manage it and really pinpoint what it is that's causing the pain and finding relief even if it's not instantaneously like shutting it down in the immediate sense. Just getting those little subtle cues of feeling a little bit better your next cycle and even better the next cycle, that is really empowering as well.
Lisa [00:45:14] Well, and just to kind of put it out there, again another thing that should be said is that if you look at your menstrual cycle as a vital sign and you take period pain for example, that's an indication of a deeper underlying issue. In that case it's likely inflammation. A lot of new research is coming out about endometriosis and how it can be related to immune dysregulation and it's obviously an inflammatory disorder where you have endometrial tissue developing in areas where it shouldn't be developing. Depending on where it develops it may or may not cause pain because not all women with endo have pain. But if you think about it like that, the pain is a sign of something else and so it's important to have relief so however you get relief in the temporary sense is helpful. So I don't want to downplay the importance of that.
[00:46:00] But know that taking the pill doesn't solve it, it doesn't cure it, it doesn't fix it. It stops the menstrual cycle and then a lot of women may experience some--but not even all women experience a complete resolution of the pain on the pills, to put that out there too. But it's just important to recognize like there's a difference between treating symptoms versus actually trying to figure out what's the underlying factor in addressing it.
Jessica [00:46:27] In your book you talk about period pain a bit and ways to management it, so I am segueing into vaginal steaming of course since that is what we focus on a lot a Leiamoon. At what point in your research did you come across vaginal steaming?
Lisa [00:46:41] Well I mean I came across steaming in a really interesting way early on. So I've been podcasting and I started the Fertility Friday podcast which will be five years this December. So yeah! And I remember I posted this article on Facebook and it was like Gwyneth Paltrow is telling everyone to steam their vaginas or something. Of course I'm paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact name of the article. I literally posted it like with [inaudible 47:07] emoji. I was like, great, now we have to steam our vaginas now. What's next?
[00:47:11] We were talking about this before in our pre chat and I had never heard of it before and I kind of thought that it was an extension on like vaginal rejuvenation. I thought it was like a negative, like your vagina smells and you need to clean it. And so I really just didn't know about it and I just assumed that it was not a good thing. But I remember and I'm very thankful and our vigo practitioner checked me right there. She made a comment on the post and she's like actually Lisa, it's a real thing you should look into it. I think you should interview Dr. Rosita Arvigo, and I was like, huh, alright then. So very early on in the podcast, so going back to the archives, episode 18 I think it is. I remember it because I referred to that one so many times. But I interviewed her and in that interview she was the first to really explain virginal steaming to me and also of course the audience and the implications. Then much later on I interviewed Keli Garza on the podcast Steamy Chick and she shared even more information and so steaming has an interesting history and it's associated with a lot of different things. For the women who I've worked with, [steaming was] particularly helpful for women who are having problematic period.
[00:48:33] So I've had a number of clients who--I think as women we just have an intuitive sense of like, if you have your period and it's too dark, it looks black or oxidized or if you use a menstrual cup and you're bleeding and it's like molasses; it's not liquid like you would think it should be. So if you have that intuitive sense of like this doesn't seem right, this seems like there's a problem. A lot of women who have spotting before and after their period things like that or even you know pain with periods, many women find relief with steaming and it seems too simple to be to work.
[00:49:11] I think that when I talk about steaming some of the myths that come up for people, because there's always people that are like adamantly like, no steaming is bad and you're burning your vagina and all that stuff. So steaming feels like a warm bath for your vagina. It's not painful and the steam is never--if you are actually feeling any type of discomfort, you're not doing it correctly and the steam is too hot. It quite literally feels--the same way you would go into like a steam room or sauna or like have a nice bubble bath or something like that, it feel very comfortable, very nice as I'm sure you talk about all the time. But basically with the steaming it seems so simple because you're just sitting there, not a whole lot happens, it just feels warm in your lady parts. But by steaming over the course of several cycles many women notice incredible shifts in the quality of their menstruation and it's something that I've seen time and time again.
Jessica [00:50:05] Why do you think that happens? I mean just as somebody who's really well studied in like the science based evidence world of how our hormones work and how they best work when in balance, what about steam is going to help regulate that system?
Lisa [00:50:23] Well I think that as women we haven't had as much of an opportunity to connect with our physical bodies and it's easy to forget that our uterus is an actual organ inside of our bodies. So I've had a number of interviews with different practitioners of abdominal massage therapies. So my conversation with Dr. Rosita Arvigo. I recently released a podcast interview with Dr. Jennifer Mercier, founder of Mercier Therapy. I had an interview with Claire Blake, founder of Fertility Massage Therapy and I'm probably forgetting somebody. And even, I'm thinking of Isa Herrera, she wrote the book Female Pelvic Alchemy.
Jessica [00:51:07] Ending female pain.
Lisa [00:51:09] She wrote like four books. But anyways, those types of conversations always ground me in, is the very physical nature of our bodies. So when it comes to period pain and period related issues, we tend to gravitate to this concept of taking pills for the pain and taking drugs and it doesn't necessarily occur to us that we could be having pain, discomfort or issues with our period because the uterus is literally out of alignment because potentially the blood inside of the uterus hasn't fully been expelled. Or in the case of endometriosis, if you have adhesion--what a lot of people don't know as well is that your uterus is really an interesting and dynamic incredible organ. It's really fascinating and over the course of your menstrual cycle your whole uterus actually change its position.
[00:52:03] So when I'm teaching about fertility awareness and teaching how to identify the changes in your cervical position, one of the things I teach my clients is that the uterus actually changes position and the cervix tilts and it's in a different position during your fertile window versus outside of it. But your uterus has to have that freedom of motion to actually move around during your cycle. It's not like walking the town or anything. So this is always my little example of the uterus. I teach with my hands, all my clients are laughing. But if this was your uterus and this was your cervix, during your cycle as you start your period it might be more like in this position and it tilts facing backwards. As you approach ovulation it actually moves. And so the tilt and position of your cervix changes but your uterus has to have the freedom of motion to be able to move around essentially.
[00:52:52] So if you have a woman that actually has some sort of issue physically, whether it's adhesions, meaning that the tissues are sticking together and the uterus can't really move where it's supposed to be moving and can't necessarily get into the right position and empty properly and then you have old blood and tissue or something like that that hasn't fully empty, then it would make perfect sense that--If you kind of think about your uterus in a physical type of way, if you work with somebody who is trained in abdominal physical therapy, you hear them talk about how they can actually palpate your abdomen and feel if your uterus is in correct alignment and kind of massage or palpate those areas. It's not necessarily like the same as getting a regular massage, but they have to kind of get in there and make sure that it's in the right location and kind of ensure that everything's aligned and if there's adhesions kind of breaking those up. But basically helping to realign and physically moving everything around. A lot of women have significant improvements in all kinds of areas, from fertility to period pain to even digestive issues just by addressing those.
[00:54:11] If you think about the concept of physical physiotherapy or if you have a knot in your back and somebody rubs it out or if you are really really tense and you've worked out a ton and you've just got a lot of tension and you have a massage and you do with steam room or something like that, that's the answer to your question. Of course it could potentially have this incredible impact on women because we are talking about our physical bodies here and sometimes we quite literally need some physical manipulation to address these period issues.
Jessica [00:54:41] That's such a good example actually, even doing that--.
Lisa [00:54:43] You like when I do this?
Jessica [00:54:48] But I mean, I think that makes sense too even thinking of the laws of gravity when our cycle is trying to sort of shed our uterine lining every month, but the actual physical positioning of that organ is tilted in such a way where it can't empty, having that physical maneuvering would be really helpful. And the period pains, the way I always think about period pains sometimes too, is it a contraction or is the uterus literally physically trying to move old blood or old lining or old tissue that doesn't serve anymore out so that it can re prepare for the rest of the cycle to accept life if that's what you choose to do. So it makes sense that the physical positioning of that organ is really critical to how it's able to expel each month as you said.
Lisa [00:55:39] Just imagine if it was kind of like a standard of care. So this conversation I've had with a number of practitioners in these types of fields. Imagine if it was like just a standard of care, like if a woman has really ridiculous painful periods or if she has been struggling with fertility challenges, imagine if it was just standard of care to have an assessment, have somebody who's trained in that area to basically do an assessment of her abdomen to find out if the uterus is in correct alignment and if not, a series of sessions or whatever in combination potentially with steaming or castor oil packs to break up the adhesions, improve blood flow, stimulate all of the flow of blood, lymph et cetera, if that was just the standard of care, how different the world would be. Cause it's kind of blows the mind because it's a non-invasive type of--there's no surgery. We're not talking about surgical, we're not talking about medication, we're literally just talking about like this very basic non-invasive type of intervention. I mean there's limited research but it's coming more and more.
[00:56:54] In my interview with Dr. Jennifer Mercier, she talked about basically a study that she did with her patients who were undergoing Mercier Therapy and the success rate that she talks about is really high. But it's hard to I suppose--I don't know, the drug companies aren't interested in funding a study that doesn't involve medication, like you can dispense this, so that has something to do with it. But I think it kind of is hard for us to wrap our head around the fact that it could be something physical and by addressing that physical aspect of it, it could significantly improve our period because we're just so ingrained the thing drugs and pills.
Jessica [00:57:37] Yes, it's such a basic kind of first step you would think to be like, okay, well where is my uterus located and how is it sitting. Also, the way it...
Lisa [00:57:44] Like it didn't occur to me until I had these conversations. It just never and I have pain for year. It never occurred to me until I had those conversations.
Jessica [00:57:55] And of all our organs, it just seemed like the uterus, the way it's held in place is so tenuous and nuanced with just these ligaments kind of suspended between your bladder and your rectum. It makes sense that it would potentially get moved out of whack or need to be moved around and that these non-invasive ways are things that we can do for ourselves, on our own at home, on our own terms. I mean there's certainly several amazing therapists out there that are great guides for it but ultimately it could be something so basic if we had our own sort of techniques that we were taught. Which I think Arvigo Maya abdominal therapy, they do self...
Lisa [00:58:38] Yeah, you have the session with the practitioner and they teach you how to do self care. It feels like the uprising of the kind of feminine wisdom. It feels like we're at a time where we're starting to kind of bring this back and it's so necessary. To me it feels like women supporting women in the ways that would make sense for women.
[00:59:03] I remember I felt like that when I first used menstrual cups. So the first cups that I used, keeper back in the day, like the year 2002, circa 2000 before--throwback. Now there's like 100 companies that make menstrual cups but before that there was like two. And I remember like the first time I saw this and used it, I was just like wow, this is what happens when like women solve problems for women, like it just makes more sense.
Jessica [00:59:36] The cup was such a revolution too. Like even what you're talking about, being able to see your blood and assess it and know like when it's off or when something weird is going on, the cup is like kind of the first wave where we could actually like hold our periods. And even that was like really revelatory to be able to like hold this cup of your own blood in your hands. Like really investigated because for so long we're kind of conditioned to use tampons, plug it up, like don't look, hide it in the trash bin. Andrew is commenting right now.
Lisa [01:00:17] This is literally like throwback to year one university. But on my university campus there was a women's center and they had all these really great speakers series things and presentations and I went into this one and they were talking about the issue with conventional pads and tampons and how they're laced with synthetic chemicals and dioxins and all that kind of stuff. And I remember they put, like they just took a glass of water, very much like this glass of water, except this is lemon water, they took a tampon and put it in the glass of water and you saw how it would expand. Then after they pulled it out the water you saw the little synthetic fibers in the water. If you ever want to do that you'll be grossed out forever. But when you actually have your period as a woman it's not blue liquid, it's not water, it is blood and tissue. And so having the cup was one of those kind of revelatory moments, like this actually addresses what I actually have, it's not uncomfortable. If I have a lighter day, it doesn't leave me feeling really dry and uncomfortable when I pull it out. Like I'm not necessarily dissing any type of products except for the ones laced with the chemicals and the dioxins. But really I just had that moment of like this is made for women by women. This is what happens when women create solutions to the problems based on what we feel would intuitively be better.
Jessica [01:01:38] And if we aren't talking about being able to assess the result of your cycle each month, that's a great way to really get in there and understand what's going on. And sometimes I really just feel like having that understanding is what's making our cycles better in a way. It's sort of like, look at me, I'm trying to communicate something to you. This is off or that is off and you can physically see it in a way and I think that acknowledgement is already helping women understand it and what might have been translated as pain before might actually not now, if it's connected to some new logic that you're able to find as a result of really seeing your cervical music, music and mucus and your menstrual blood.
Lisa [01:02:26] Well and the way that I've looked at it over the years kind of like the way I joke about it is, because I've been charting for so long, I can't really go off the rails. Like I can't really go on like a crazy three month sugar binge and like drink all the alcohol and like never sleep and like, I can't really do all that stuff because when you're charting you actually see how it quite literally affects your cycles, especially for women who've experienced pain. I mean, when I have my cycles now I rate my pain as a 0 to a 0.5, going down from 9, 9.5 from my earlier experience, but I could bring it back. I could bring the pain back if I wanted to. So my cycles have always helped me to stay on track. It gives me an indication of what I do with my body, how I take care of myself all of these things, why it matters and why it's always good to go back to the basics.
[01:03:24] A lot of us want to really think, oh I have to take all these supplements, I have to do all these things, I have to completely change everything I'm doing. But often it starts with like getting enough sleep and sleeping in the dark and not eating all the sugar. It can be really a lot easier or a lot more straightforward, a lot more basic in many cases, at least in the initial stages than we often think.
Jessica [01:03:51] Sure and I think that is part of why I really appreciate vaginal steaming because it kind of gives you this ritual or marker--I mean it depends on when you steam but I usually was steaming before I got pregnant, just a few days after my cycle as a way to kind of reflect on what happened, like what did I do over the course of the month that might have caused my cycle to be painful or to be easier. And even in just steaming myself, it was making my cycles easier. So even that combined with tracking your cycle is a really good sort of consistent time to spend giving yourself that assessment.
Lisa [01:04:37] Well, when you're tracking your cycle, so for instance, if you ever make it shift, so if you start steaming, if you pay attention just to a few things. You can pay attention to the length of your period, the color of it, the quality of it, the level of pain or how many days you experience discomfort or whatever the case is, but you can kind of take note of the things that are important to you and that's what's really helpful as well by having a record of it. Because we really quickly gravitate to the new normal and often forget where we came from. So if you have that record of several cycles and then you can say, okay I started steaming in January now it's April, and you can actually kind of take a look at the changes that you experienced. It really gives you a good indication of whether or not you're on the right track and if what you've been doing has been helping you.
Jessica [01:05:27] So much. Well I don't want to keep you too much longer which is very easy to do. But thank you so much Lisa. I really appreciate all your wisdom and everything that you share encouraging us to embrace our hormonal changes and know them individually as a true indicator of our overall health.
[01:05:45] Everyone please check out Lisa's book The Fifth Vital Sign. It's pure gold especially if all this information is new to you. There it is.
Lisa [01:05:55] This, I asked my ask my designer, I said I wanted it to look like a vulva but not like a vulva. I was like, I want it to look like a vulva in an arty way. So how did you do it?
Jessica [01:06:05] It's beautiful. Turn to nature, nature always provides. The flower.
Lisa [01:06:10] Whatever I show it to men they're like, I see it.
Jessica [01:06:15] I mean even just like that, like all the content is broken down in such a clear palpable stylish fun way that I highly recommend giving it a read. And if you head to fertilityFriday.com you can see more about Lisa and what she has to offer. She has consultations on her website and again her podcasts Fertility Friday is the best. I love it. That's how we found her. And for those of you who haven't signed up yet head over to our site Leiamoon.com to reserve your home electronic vaginal steam seat. We're getting closer to our countdown of launching our kick starter. So stay tuned and stay in touch. Lisa thanks again. It was really a pleasure and a privilege to spend the afternoon with you.
Lisa [01:07:00] Thank you. This was so much fun. Thanks so much for having me.
Jessica [01:07:03] You're very welcome. Bye everyone.
V-STEAMERS AROUND THE WORLD
A yogi shares how she uses v-steaming as a tool for spiritual and emotional healing.
Jessica: [00:00:03] Hi everyone, I am Jessica, thanks for tuning in to our brand-new Facebook Live. Today's interview is going to be a little bit more unique from our last few. We have been interviewing gynecologists, doctors, fertility specialists to hear their thoughts on vaginal steaming. Today, we're going to focus more on what we're calling steam stories from around the world. Interviewing real women who practice vaginal steaming and just getting the scoop on their personal experience integrating these steaming into their lives. So this evening I'll be speaking with Andrea or Andy Varela, who is a Yogi in New Mexico, right?
Andrea: [00:00:39] Yes
Jessica: [00:00:40] And yes, we saw your YouTube video called,"My yoni steam made me cry," and we definitely wanted to have more so thanks for joining us.
Andrea: [00:00:48] Of course. Thank you guys for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jessica: [00:00:51] Of course. So let's start off by just learning a little bit more about you. You're based in New Mexico, are you from there originally?
Andrea: [00:01:00] Yes. I was born and raised here in New Mexico, and then about five years ago, I moved to the city, so I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm a yoga instructor here. I am a 500 hour yoga instructor, I just got certified for my 300 hours in Costa Rica and I was there for about seven weeks this summer. It was so beautiful, it's a really great experience. And then I'm also an energy worker. I'm certified in Reiki. I got certified in that last year. I do energy healings as well and I work with plant medicine and I do a little bit of everything. I've been doing Yoni steams for at least seven to eight months now, not every month, I definitely spread it out. I had a friend that introduce me to yoni steaming and that's been my journey as of this last year, it's been with plants and plant medicine.
Jessica: [00:02:00] How did your friend introduce you to it? Was it something that she learned from another woman or was it passed down through her family?
Andrea: [00:02:07] She actually makes yoni steams, from a lot of it here in New Mexico. She's been gathering herbs from New Mexico, for a few years now and has been shipping yoni steams out. I think that she has a pretty decent following on Twitter and she has been sending them out to people using her own herbs. She goes and she harvests and so she's been a really big inspiration as far as my yoni steam journey.
Jessica: [00:02:33] When you first heard about it from her, were you at a workshop with her? Was she at a yoga class or you went out for coffee? Do you remember the moment that she first started telling you about it or that you discovered her?
Andrea: [00:02:46] Yes. So she's my best friend. We were hanging out and she was telling me that she works with yoni steams, so I was curious. I hadn't heard about what that was and so I asked her what it was. She gave me the benefits, the run down and told me the different herbs that she personally uses. I know that it's kind of customizable. She introduced me to a few different herbs that she puts in most, if not all of her steams. Then she intuitively chooses different herbs for certain people. If somebody has a certain intention that they're using [the steam for], she usually likes to find a herb that works with them. So it's just kind of something that she's been doing in order to... She's an entrepreneur. And so she's been doing that over the last few years to make a little bit of income and to educate women on yoni steaming as well.
Jessica: [00:03:34] When you first heard her talk about it, did you find it strange or did it immediately just attract you as something you wanted to try or a little bit of both?
Andrea: [00:03:43] Yes, I feel like strange things attract me. That sounds weird, but I definitely want to try that. So I was really excited to do it for my first time. Then after that, I started making and experimenting with my own and I got into really loving it. I'm a very spiritual person, so I used it more for the spiritual benefits. I mean it's great, all of the physical benefits that come with it as well.
Jessica: [00:17:23] The very first time that you steamed, was your intention more based in personal growth rather than the physical aspects of the benefits of steaming?
Andrea: [00:17:31] The first time that I steamed, it was after a full moon, it was charged with the full moon and I had just gotten out of a relationship but I was healing wounds from a previous relationship. So, I really just wanted to clear all the energy out of my womb space from that, so that was my intention with my first steam, to really see what came up from it and also with the intention of healing whatever was stored in there that didn't need to be stored there anymore.
Jessica: [00:17:51] Maybe you can walk us a little bit through your practices like in your home, because I assuming you're at home using your own DIY steam action?
Andrea: [00:17:55] Yes. So she told me to try and find a yoni throne but I didn't really practice it enough to want to invest super hard in it. So I just did it in a toilet. So what I did was, while everything was boiling, I just brewed everything like a tea and I had meditated over it. I was chanting over it, then I went to the bathroom and I just cleared space. She told me that it was really important to set a space and to sit in that space, have an intention. So I went to my bathroom and I lit some sage and incense and I really created a very sacred space. I put on some really healing music. I think it was some Native American music that had all these chimes, drums and instrumental and so I created that space. Then I cleaned my toilet a little bit with vinegar and lemon and I flushed that down. Then I went ahead and I put the tea in there essentially. I put that in the toilet, then I took a blanket and I covered my legs with [it] and I sat over the steam. Then I meditated for 45 minutes, I think I was in there. I let anything that was coming up, come up. I had a pretty big emotional release for my first one and it invoked some feelings that I hadn't felt in a long time as far as anger, sadness. Just going through some traumatic experiences that I've [had] in my life. Just watching those come up and watching how my mind observes those things that was coming up kind of allowed myself to feel all the emotions that I hadn't felt for certain things. I noticed physically that it really helps me regulate my period as far as syncing up with the moon. I was kind of synced up with the moon for a while there, then I took a trip to Sedona and when I came back from that trip, my period was kind of off. So it was like in transition between new and full moon. So I noticed that it linked me back up to the moon, which was really interesting.
Jessica: [00:19:15] Now, in practice, do have a certain time of the month that you do it ritually or does it vary depending on when you're feeling or what your schedule is like? Or is it always like after or before menstruation?
Andrea: [00:19:24] It's definitely usually after menstruation, I've noticed. I guess intuitively, I never really thought about that. But it definitely does happen after menstruation, just because I like to be sure when I'm going to menstruate or when I've already menstruated. So I usually like to do it after menstruation and then I don't really do it every month. I read somewhere that it's like... I don't know, it's not good or like something about doing it every month can actually irritate the skin. So I do it like every three to six months and it's just kind of when I intuitively feel like I need to. Like now that I have been back from Costa Rica and I settled in a little bit, now I know it's after my next menstrual cycle I want to clear all of that energy and do another one. I've done about two since I started doing them.
Jessica: [00:19:57] Being an energy worker and having a pretty deep understanding of what that means, when you can explain a bit more this idea of release of energy and how vaginal steaming can help facilitate that. I think, even from my own personal experience, bringing the heat to that part of our bodies, what is the significance of that energetic center and how is that activated as a release practice?
Andrea: [00:20:13] Yes. So the womb is actually connected to our sacral chakra and our sacral chakra is the chakra that holds our creativity. It's the chakra that also holds all of our traumas, all our ancestral healing. Same thing with the root chakra, I feel like it does a little bit of work with both. So when we're energetically healing something, we're just giving ourselves the space to really allow ourselves to bring up whatever it is. So in the instance of yoni steaming, just sitting with myself in that meditation and seeing what comes up, and by that, what I mean, it's like my mind takes me back to certain parts of my life and I'm able to really fully feel all of the emotions that come with that. So that's what I see as like an energetic release. It's like, I couldn't feel those things in that moment, maybe I couldn't process it, maybe there was too much going on, maybe this traumatic experience literally made my body freeze up, made my nerves freeze up and I couldn't actually process the trauma in that moment. And so what the steam does is, it invites me to go back to that space, in a different context, in a meditation and I can look at it from an objective space and I can actually see, okay, these are the emotions that tie into that, this is how I felt at the time without even really knowing that this is how I felt. This is where I lost my power and I didn't say no or..., Yeah, just kind of a loss of power. Sometimes some things aren't really like, sexual trauma or anything, sometimes it's just trauma that we've experienced. I had one scene where a lot of inner child things came up and I noticed where I could have stepped up more in my own voice, even as a kid or an adolescent and noticed that a lot of trauma affected me and my body growing up. There were a lot of times where I felt anger and sadness and I didn't really have a healthy way of expressing that. So I feel like, in this objective space I can really do that and I can really feel all the emotions that come up with that. So that's kind of what I feel like an energetic release would be. Definitely.
Jessica: [00:21:46] And I think it's such a benefit to be able to have this practice and do this in your own home, where you feel empowered to set the stage for what you want that to feel like and be embedded in that space and that it's really personal work that you're doing. I think it's really great and well described. Do you have a meditation practice outside of steaming? I'm assuming you do more than just every three to six months.
Andrea: [00:22:06] Yeah definitely. I have a pretty solid meditation practice. I was doing a little bit more meditation when I was in Costa Rica and then when I got back it was adjusting back into like my lifestyle and back into everything that I was doing before. But I set a pretty good foundation for a meditation practice while I was out in Costa Rica and I've kept up with tuning into my breath and really playing with the idea that every moment can be a meditation. And so I find that during my day, there at least 10 to 15 minutes that I really just sit with myself, tune into myself and see how I'm feeling, see how my body's feeling and what I've noticed is that the more micro that you can get the feelings, the deeper that you can come into yourself. And by that, if somebody asks me" How are you feeling?" I'm like, " Oh I'm good, I'm fine." Instead of doing that, just taking a moment to really feel into myself and say, "Oh I feel this heaviness in my chest, I feel like I'm going through something, I'm not really sure what it is. I feel like my body's kind of tight." Just really getting micro with things like that can really help you actually figure out what it is that you're really feeling. So I feel like meditation has really brought me into that space of being able to tune into myself and being able to tune into my body.
Jessica: [00:23:01] So then when vaginal steaming was more focused on the womb space and the core of your female body, do you see that as an enhanced version of meditation or in other words is it supplementing your meditation practice or does it have a totally different function for you?
Andrea: [00:23:14] Oh no, it definitely enhances my meditation practice immensely, I think because the herbs are being used in that. Because as women, our wombs are literally portals of creation. Whether it's birthing a child, an idea, a new art project or birthing a new opportunity, that is our space of creation. And so when there are things that are blocking that, when we remove those, we really sit with those, it really brings you into a deeper trance especially because herbs are involved and I notice that the intention that I put into a steam is exactly what I experienced through vaginal steaming and so sometimes, I don't like to put an intention and I like to just see what comes up. But I've noticed that when I do put an intention, the energy absolutely follows that and I can feel whatever the intention is that I put into that. So definitely enhances the meditation a lot more especially if it's something that I'm seeking to let go of or something I'm seeking to experience.
Jessica: [00:23:55] Are you just experiencing that release on an energetic level? Or have you also noticed... When you were saying that your menstrual cycle is starting to sync up more within the moon, by integrating this practice, but also just in terms of making it regular, or your periods, no more standard four days, and just easier on your body in any way?
Andrea: [00:24:10] So I definitely have always had a pretty regular period, I go for about five days. My first two days are the hardest, my last three days are just kind of spotting from here and there. So I've been pretty regular as far as my period, so the biggest thing that I've noticed was myself syncing back up to the moon. But as far as physical benefits, I feel like I used to get a lot of irritation down in that area and now I've noticed it a lot less, especially when I put rose or chamomile, very soothing herbs with that, I notice a pretty big difference if I'm having symptoms of UTI's, or if I've just had a UTI, or if I am feeling irritation or anything like that. I feel like it also changes the consistency of the fluids as well and it really falls into the four phase menstruation. Like the follicular phase is a little bit different, as far as the fluid than any other phases and I've noticed that it really linked itself back up to where it should be as far what the fluid should be when you're in your follicular phase and what it should be when you're in your menstrual phase and things like that. I've definitely noticed that the fluid and the odor has changed as well, or the irritation.
Jessica: [00:25:03] Furthermore, you were mentioning your friend that, that creates different streams for her clients and that she uses local herbs around your area and New Mexico. Which herbs are you using more frequently? You mentioned chamomile and rose. Are there any others that she recommends or that you've experienced and worked with?
Andrea: [00:25:17] Definitely. So Rose is one that she collects. She also collects yarrow and mullen and there's one more that she always uses.
Jessica: [00:25:25] Mugwort is a very popular one that I been working with, or [00:25:26] _____. [0.0] But that's used mostly in the Korean tradition of vaginal steaming. It like the main herb.
Andrea: [00:25:30] Oh Oregano. That's another one.
Jessica: [00:25:30] Oregano. Yes. That's also very big, like cleansing, clearing herb, Like here in the Northeast where I am, mugwort grows like wildfire, it's everywhere.
Andrea: [00:25:36] That is easy and abundant there.
Jessica: [00:25:36] It means something, I'm convinced. I think that also a great aspect of it too. It's like, it can be used so simple in terms of going out into your hyper local nature and seeing what's available to you and so many of these plants are trying to speak to us. Even if we're just using them in the steam for aroma therapeutic reasons and not for the medicinal properties of the herbs, that in and of itself helps induce this more emotional release I think, for the meditations. So I think that's the great aspect that you touched on. Wow!
Andrea: [00:26:00] I feel like with local herbs to your area, especially if you've grown up in the area, it can also enhance a little bit of ancestral healing too I've noticed. Especially like growing up in New Mexico and using the herbs of New Mexico, there can be a lot of ancestral healing and I know that she kind of only uses those specific herbs after harvest and then during the winter after she runs out, we have a local herb store that has pretty much everything local.
Jessica: [00:26:19] That's really great. I know there's many people making different blends now. I feel like it's definitely on the rise but it's not that it's a new thing, it really is Reiki practice. And I think anyone that comes into contact with it through word of mouth and tries it in the same way that you did, immediately feels like, " Oh I'm home." This is a very important way of connecting to myself that I didn't realize was available to me. Even as someone too who has regular periods and isn't dealing with something very debilitating in terms of P.M.S, it's still such a powerful tool to just let go of so much of that tightness that we hold, its protection really too and even what you're mentioning, this womb and sacral chakra, it is really about home and protection and be able to feel safe there is really important. So the moment that we can kind of meditate on that spa, I think it's just really great. So I'm glad to hear that your practice is serving you in that way. I know also a lot of women are, at least on the East Coast, I think in L.A. too, certain spas are offering this as a treatment as well, which I think is a really interesting juxtaposition of, do you want to do this at home or even like, in a circle of women, at a group workshop, or go to a spa and pay like a hundred dollars to have it be more of like a pampered experience. Whatever gets you there. But I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on that or if you've tried, you've been in a spa or any situation besides just at home?
Andrea: [00:27:24] I've never tried steaming in a spa, I feel like that would be kind of interesting. I'm just so hypersensitive that I would definitely have to treat the space like it's my space. I clear it and do the energy work beforehand. But I definitely think that would be kind of cool and something to look into. Absolutely. Like you said, anything that gets you there. These are like these ancient techniques that we're now bringing back. And so it's like, a lot of people experience this or feel like this is new but exactly what you said, when you do it, it's like a homecoming. You're like, "No, I've been doing this." And that's what I mean by ancestral healing right? It's like, "No I've been doing this for a really long time, I didn't know and now I'm here again. "
Jessica: [00:27:53] I think that's so true. Even just having that space, to release stress and tension which seem to be like some of the root causes of a lot of health problems. This mind, body connection is so real and I think, sometimes we try to be so hyper scientific about it. But I think it always comes full circle, kind of back to your inner knowing and ability to communicate with your body and what it is trying to say to you. I even think that's what cramps are. It's your uterus working, yes, to shed your lining but it also has a voice that I think vaginal steaming allows you to really listen in to what that's saying. It seems like from your YouTube video that you published, that was so real for you. Just feeling like this major emotional release in terms of you just crying tears of joy that you're able to get there with yourself. So awesome.
Andrea: [00:28:29] I definitely think that it gave me like that intuition to tap back into myself, and I learned in my yoga school this month, they have like this acronym for pain as far as like cramps. It's Pay Attention Inward Now and I really like that because we're really not supposed to experience like super heavy cramping the way that we do in our world today. And I think a lot of it just has to do with like our society and we're so go, go, go, especially with females trying to say, "Oh I can do anything a man can do." And like in reality, like yes we can, absolutely. And how can we bring an intuitive way to that? How can we bring a more open way to that? Because I feel like, obviously there's biological differences but, as women, I feel like for whatever reason, maybe it is because we have a womb, maybe it is because we menstruate, we have a deeper connection with our bodies because of that. And so I think that sometimes this can be lost because we're trying to go and go and go in this society and trying to keep up with the grind, we forget to take that time to really tune into ourselves. In other countries, they have days off that they can just menstruate and be with themselves, and we don't have that here. So I think that we're just trying to keep up in this, I don't really want to go to patriarchic, but I mean patriarchic world where everything is just go, go, go. Everything is business. And so I really think that it's powerful when you can take that power back and take that time for yourself to really tune into what it is that your body is saying. Because, it really is intuitive and I think that as humans, we're always trying to find a label for things, we're always trying to find a logical and scientific way that things are the way that they are, when in reality, if we had no worries, if we had no way of being able to speak, we'd be the mammals that we really are and we'd have nothing but intuition to rely on.
Jessica: [00:29:51] So much so, and it all comes in cycles too, like there are moments when you do have to embody more of the masculine and be more of the hammer that you were describing, where you have all these tasks that you have to hit. But there will be a moment in your cycle where you need rest and you need to go back inward and really reflect on, what it is that you've taken on during the month, what it is that you need to release so that you can rejuvenate, refresh and start again and go back and be more creative and productive personally. Just like the moon, you know the full moon is kind of when you're supposed to be at the epic pinnacle of your creative force. And for most women, that's when you're ovulating as well. And then you menstruate and it's more insular and like, you're right. We don't really have a society set up to allow us to take those slower paced times. It doesn't mean that we can't create them for ourselves. We just have to be proactive about making that space. And the way that you've been doing it at home, using your own toilet. Like everyone, well, most privileged people I guess have a toilet, I shouldn't say everyone. But it can be that simple. And you can even take like twenty minutes, just to really sync in and give yourself that space and time, on your own terms.
Andrea: [00:30:45] Absolutely. I totally agree. Because it does very much work in a cycle. And the more you can take this time to, yes, let your outward energy show, like in your fertile stage or even in ovulation you can have that outward energy but, there comes a time where everything's reigning in right before menstruation and you really have to take that time to sit with yourself and go inward. It's so important, like you said, just to see what we've taken on and what we really can't let go of. I think that women who menstruate during the full moon, I don't necessarily think that they're off. I've read some articles that are like, "Oh, they're off." And I don't necessarily think that. I think what the full moon is doing is shining a light on that inner period of darkness, that inner period of going back into introspection. Whereas, if you're menstruating during the new moon, then you just have that darkness and you really have that period of integration and introspection and it can really be beautiful and it can also be really beautiful to shine a light on that, if you're not paying so much attention during the other phases of your cycle.
Jessica: [00:31:33] Yeah definitely. I actually menstruate on the full moon, so I am in what would be considered the opposite phase. But, it's also considered the witchy, shamanic way.
Andrea: [00:31:36] The healer phase. That makes sense.
Jessica: [00:31:37] Yeah, it's amazing how universal some of these concepts are. The more people we talk to about it and for so long, talking about your period is like hyper taboo. So it's great to be able to connect with people through social media and realize, "Oh I'm feeling this way too, aren't you?" And once, we shine light on those patterns together, we can start to reintegrate all these practices to help us to feed off of them even more and make us more empowered people in the world, spirit world really. It's kind of like your soul's voice, it's just, you get to express itself in the most vibrant way possible. And I think these practices are really helpful for that.
Andrea: [00:32:09] Especially with women, I feel like we feel so alienated sometimes because we go through this cycle of menstruation and we go through issues with just that space in general, that it can be awkward to talk about. It can be awkward to talk about your period, it can be awkward to talk about an odor or something that's going on, that you're not really sure what it is. We're not really taught to talk about it, just like don't talk about it. It's not seen, it's not heard. And so that's really why I like going to women's circles and stuff. And so, I'm actually hosting women's circle here on the next full moon in New Mexico. It's all about yoni steaming, and the four phases of menstruation and how you can link up to the moon. Then they'll be making their own yoni steam at the end of that. So I'm really excited to lead something like that and incorporate all aspects of the cycle.
Jessica: [00:32:43] Well that's awesome. When is that?
Andrea: [00:32:43] The 24th. So on Monday.
Jessica: [00:32:45] Yes, the full moon, great. I am going to blast that out there too. That's exactly how I learned about vaginal steaming myself. I was at a women's circle on Summer Solstice, I think two summers ago now, where the leader of the circle started talking about yoni steaming and had each of us make our own little sachet of herbs at the end and that was the first time I had tried it and even heard of the concept. I think learning about it in circle too is so great, because everyone's already in this hyper vulnerable place and we're all sharing information about how to heal ourselves and find more avenues of self-care. You get so much love from being in circle but also when we can still have like our own inner circle, deep inside of this body and how to better nourish it. So I'm so glad you're doing that over there too.
Andrea: [00:33:17] I am excited.
Jessica: [00:33:17] Have you hosted that type of circle before?
Andrea: [00:33:19] Not with yoni steams. I host women circles, and I just hosted a cookout ceremony last week. It's just super powerful, I love being able to gather with women. It's definitely what I feel like, one of my soul's calling is to definitely just gather with women, allow them to be vulnerable, give them a space where they feel like they can be open and share. Also it's like that confidentiality. Like, this is getaway space, so whatever it is that needs to come out for you, needs to come through for you here, you have the space to do that. I definitely don't think that yoni steaming will be the last time that I incorporate that into my spaces. It's something new and I'm excited to try it and see the reactions and take that as a workshop somewhere else. In different states.
Jessica: [00:33:46] Are the women that attend your circles typically in the same group or are you always pulling in people from different walks of life?
Andrea: [00:33:51] I feel like I'm a very versatile person, so I just pull a bunch of different people from all walks of life. There are some that are pretty consistent in coming and there are people that are already kind of integrated in this type of community, and they're also really beautiful souls who come in and have never experienced anything like that. So it's a good mixture of both.
Jessica: [00:34:08] That's great. So when you explain to them what vaginal steaming is and have them select their herbs, have other women there, do you think that they've done this before, or will it be, you're introducing it to them for the first time?
Andrea: [00:34:13] I think a lot of them, it'll be the first time introducing it to them. So my best friend, the one that I was talking about ,she and I are going to be hosting this together and she will be talking about like the history of yoni steam and she'll be going over all of the herbs and then we'll just kind of have them intuitively feel whichever ones that they need for their steam, they can make into their own little steam and then they can take a steam home with them and share their experiences with us, hopefully in the next circle.
Jessica: [00:34:34] Are you guys working with dried herbs primarily or will you use fresh herbs as well?
Andrea: [00:34:37] Dried herbs. She has dried all of the herbs out and then we'll be taking a few more from our local store that we have around us as well. So everything will be dried.
Jessica: [00:34:42] Thanks Andy. This is great. I don't have any more questions for you but is there anything more you want to share with them, I'm happy to listen. Any parting words of female wisdom empowerment on our fall equinox?
Andrea: [00:34:50] I just feel like, it's so important to tune into the body and it's so important to take that power back where we lost it and we've tried to adapt to this world when really, we don't have to, and it's okay to make our own space. It's okay to make our own rituals. It's okay to tap back into this ability that we have to really tune into ourselves and tune into our own cycles and tap into the cycles of the earth. They very much reflect our own inner cycles. And so I think that the more that we can take our power back and being able to do that, the more that we can collectively come together and start to do that and maybe teach them how to do the same thing. Living with the earth and how important that is. I definitely think it's an ancient tradition that has been lost. And I think it's something that we're slowly starting to find again. So I definitely think that it's so empowering to be able to say, "I feel this way, I've done this steam, and I've taken this part back of myself. You know, this trauma that I've been living with for so long, it's finally been healed." And so, how powerful can that be?
Jessica: [00:35:42] Even to witness that for yourself, you know. And you being the solo witness of that act, it's just such an amazing thing to make space for. So, thank you for articulating that so well and I very much look forward to keeping in touch about your goals and about all the work that you're doing. Really, it's perfectly in line with what we're doing over here too. So that's also super encouraging, all the synergy between all of us women doing this type of work and men too. So, we'll be talking soon I'm sure.
Andrea: [00:36:04] Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.
Jessica: [00:36:06] Thanks Andy. Talk to you soon.
Andrea: [00:36:07] We'll talk to you soon. Bye bye.