Mentally preparing myself for giving birth to my first child was anything but easy. I had no clue what to expect. I’d heard horror stories from other women about their own birth experiences, so the night that I went into labor, I worried about things like getting an emergency c-section, tearing, or my vagina and anus ripping into one. (A word of advice: don't Google this. It's rare, but it is a thing.)
Fortunately, my labor went fine. I suffered minor lateral tears, but they were honestly about as painful as paper cuts. Yet despite my straightforward labor and minimal tearing, my vagina was never the same again post-childbirth. After doing some research, I decided to try the trend of vaginal steaming as a way to detox and rejuvenate my lady parts.
The vagina is an amazing organ that, for the most part, goes back to its normal size and shape not long after childbirth. But for some women, the inner lips of the vagina can look more stretched out after childbirth, and an estimated 40% of women also struggle with postpartum incontinence. Since giving birth almost 5 years ago, I have become more comfortable with my post-baby vagina. But I've also become interested in sprucing up down there in the most non-invasive way possible.
The origins of vaginal steaming, also known as yoni steaming, are unclear. Some say it started in Central America, while others claim that it originated in Asia. Whatever its origin, the purpose of vaginal steaming is ostensibly to improve and maintain the health of the uterus and vagina. The practice went viral in 2015, when Gwyneth Paltrow wrote on her lifestyle website GOOP that she swore by it.
Those who advocate for the practice argue that vaginal steaming is basically like an herbal sauna for your vagina. They claim that by heating up herbs like mugwort, lavender, and blessed thistle and hovering over the steam, you can open up the pores in the walls of your vagina, which will absorb the healing properties of the herbs. Lavender is known for its relaxing properties, while mugwort is said to help menstrual cramps. As the steam cools down and your pores close, the healing essences are supposed to work their magic inside your vagina.
Like any alternative health and beauty craze, medical experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of vaginal steaming, with some claiming that it's hippie-dippie nonsense. There might be some truth to that. After all, the vagina is designed to clean itself, so unlike the carpet in your living room, it's not necessary to periodically steam clean it. In fact, if you clean your vagina with anything but soap and water, it can disrupt the pH balance, which then can lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or general irritation.
If my vagina were my face, I imagined it would look bright and glowing.
As a proponent of alternative health treatments, however, I'm basically willing to try anything, provided that it's safe. That was my first question when I heard about vaginal steaming. After researching and reading about other women’s experiences, however, I learned that steaming your vagina should not cause yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or any other types of discomfort. However, experts warn that it's best to proceed with caution: there's a risk of having an allergic reaction to the herbs, and if you sit too close to the hot steam, there's also a risk of burning your inner thighs and vagina. Ouch.
With these risks in mind, I nonetheless chose to give vaginal steaming a whirl. Even though I gave birth 5 years ago, I'd be lying if I said that my vagina felt the same as it did before I had a baby. While I still take time to do my Kegels and see the doctor regularly, I wanted to pamper my vagina, and steaming it sounded like a good choice.
So after putting my son to bed, I decided it was time to get started.
Since I am a semi-crunchy mom, I already have things like essential oils and herbs around the house. After doing some research, I chose to use three different dried herbs: fenugreek for its alleged pH balancing properties; chamomile, because it is relaxing and calming, and lemongrass, which has been said to help treat yeast infections.
Before setting out on my vaginal steam journey, I watched a few videos online that provided some basic guidance. I was instructed to add my herbs to a large pot of water and put the lid on. Since I used such a large pot, it fit into my toilet perfectly. (Don't worry — I cleaned it beforehand.)
I felt unbelievably relaxed. It took everything in my power not to fall asleep on the toilet.
I sat on top of the steam and immediately realized it was way too hot. After allowing it to cool down for a solid 20 minutes, I tried again and it was perfect. I wrapped myself in the blanket from my shoulders to my toes, like I saw on the instruction videos and articles. I set my timer for 40 minutes and tried to relax.
I'm not sure if it was the steam, the chamomile, or my general feeling of exhaustion, but all of a sudden, I felt unbelievably relaxed. It took everything in my power not to fall asleep on the toilet. My vagina felt relaxed, moist, and soft. If my vagina were my face, I imagined it would look bright and glowing.
After 40 minutes, the water mixture cooled down and my session was over. I should have wrapped myself in my blanket and gone to bed, but instead, I headed to the couch to work on a few things. Before I could type a full sentence, I’d fallen asleep on the couch with a full face of makeup on and my television blaring in the background.
When I woke up the next day, my vagina didn't feel different at all. Still, my vaginal steaming experience was worth it, if for no other reason than it made me feel incredibly relaxed.
I have no idea if consistent steaming could truly tighten my vagina walls, smooth out my labia minora, or improve my chances of being able to sneeze without peeing, and to be honest, I doubt I'll ever find out, as I don’t plan on incorporating it into my normal self-care routine. Had I mixed those same herbs in a tea mug with honey and lemon, I’d probably be just as relaxed. Still, I'm glad I tried it, if only to find out what all the fuss on the internet was about.