Vaginal steaming. I know what you are thinking - What. On. Earth. Vaginal steaming was a practise first suggested to me by my fertility masseuse, although she called it a ‘womb steam’ which sounds a lot less icky. She said it would help with my fertility so yep, I went there. And now I am dragging you along with me on a magical wonderland written exploration of the topic. So strip your pants off and let’s get started.
Are vaginal steaming and yoni steaming the same thing?
Much like a member of the royal family, the vaginal steam has a number of official names and titles: v-steaming, yoni steaming, womb steaming, vaginal cleanse, muff steaming (that may just be in my household), chai-yok, banjo…take your pick. For the purposes of this article I am going chose yoni steaming as my title of choice. I always thought that Yoni would make a pretty girls name, if it didn’t mean fanny flaps in sanskrit. All these titles are valid so just choose the name least likely to frighten your contemporaries. That’s assuming you discuss it with anyone of course. Talk about a vaginal steam with someone struggling to conceive and you are likely to hear one of two reactions
Oh yes, I steam my muff every month, it’s a totally normal practise for me, or
What is this? Why have I not heard of this? Why have a not been trying this? I’m a fool, a FOOL. This is bound to be the missing link as to why I’m not pregnant. Tell me more….
Talk about it outside of those who are fertility challenged and the person you talk to may pull a confused face, like a warthog who has unexpectedly won first prize in a beauty contest to which she had been entered without her knowledge.
The first time I was (nearly) caught out as a secret vaginal steamer was by my husband. We were sat side by side on a commuter train and Joe was discussing an interview with Gwynth Paltrow that he’d read in the paper.. “Some of the health stuff she does makes total sense and it’s what we adopt at home. But then she has to go a ruin it with some crazy hippy shit. Did you know that she steams... (he leans in towards me in a conspiratorial manner, glancing fleetingly at my crotch and whispers in a barely audible tone).. her vagina. I know! Her VAGINA. Who does that?!“ Whilst Joe leant back in his chair, eyebrows raised, patiently waiting for my shocked response, I quickly assessed how to break the news to him that his wife has been indulging in that kind of crazy hippy shit for months. Instead I decided to wear the delicately sculpted mask of normality, the one I’ve been fine tuned to make an appearance every time someone asks me if I want children. Maybe I should just come clean, much like my vagina after a good old steam. Nah, instead I throw Miss Paltrow under the bus. “Goodness. Well, that’s Gwynie for you” I tut, shaking my head in disbelieving disgust. Sorry Gwynie.
So despite lying to my beloved other half and the person I am closest to in the world, I am going to share my true thoughts on yoni steaming with you. Let’s begin with the research (or lack thereof).
What are the benefits of a yoni steam? Does yoni steam help with fertility?
Steaming is an ancient tradition in some cultures, such as in Central America. The pragmatist in me thinks that anything that has become a wellness tradition over centuries must surely have some benefit, otherwise people would just stop doing it, right? You’re not going to pass a tradition on to your grandchildren that you think is an absolute pile of crap. Unless it is a societal wide, centuries old ‘in-joke’, which seems like it would take more effort to upkeep then faking a moon landing.
As far as an internet search can reveal, there is no real evidence that it works. But I could see no hard evidence that it doesn’t either. There is simply no research. Which is understandable; can you imagine the PhD funding bid for that one, no doubt nestled in amongst other research bids to help cure cancer or end world hunger. So we’ve established that the evidence either way is scant, but what are the supposed benefits?
What is a yoni steam good for? A yoni steam is said to:
Increase of circulation in the reproductive organs/areas
Cleanse of the entire reproductive system
Enable the womb to shed unnecessary membranes and buildup (which was my reason for leaping aboard this crazy train - to get rid of my post period spotting).
Reduce period discomfort by supporting the uterus to function at its best (that sounds like a mentoring scheme).
Can you yoni steam on your period?
It is not advisable. Both from a biological perspective, in that the heat can increase the level of your bleeding, but also because can you imagine the mess it would create? You’d leave your bathroom in a state. A literal blood bath.
It is also not advised to yoni steam if you are pregnant (oh, that elusive pregnancy), if you are miscarrying (I’m so sorry if this your situation) or post ovulation if you are trying for a baby (aren’t we all).
Is a yoni steam safe?
A quick search of the Internet would seem to confirm that a vaginal steam is something one should absolutely NOT be doing. But why is that and do those concerns hold merit?
Many internet articles don’t recommend yoni steams. But they seem to be based on the notion that you are either a) an idiot, b) incredibly, mind-numbingly clumsy or c) extremely drunk because they seem to centre around the three concerns below. So if you are a drunk clumsy idiot, please take note of the following three cautions:
1) You could burn yourself. Do not dip your vagina in boiling water, that will burn. Do not squat over a steaming kettle, that too will burn. Come on people, let’s be sensible. If you won’t steam your face in it, don’t waft your vagina over it either.
2) It doesn’t make a difference. How much of a difference are the critics expecting? In the same way as you when you indulge in a facial steam you cannot put your head under the towel looking like a troll who passed her best years a decade ago and emerge looking like Kate Moss, a vaginal steam will not give you a designer vagina. But over time it may break down the old tissue and membrane, reduce spotting before or after your period and help to relieve menstrual cramps at your next period. This reminds me of the joke about the chant you’d hear from middle aged and middle class folks engaging in a political protest, “What do we want? Moderate change! When do we want it? In due course!”. That is what your vaginal can expect from a yoni steam.
3) You can disrupt the delicate PH balance of the vagina. OK, so herbs can be powerful things and granted, we could over play our hand and end up causing irritation. So go gently until you know what your nether regions like and can tolerate.
How to do a yoni steam at home
Traditionally a yoni steam is conducted over a special chair with a circular hole cut out of the seat (think privy in olden times, just much, much cleaner (one would hope)). Do many of us have one of these chairs at home? Well, no. Because a chair with the seat missing is simply a broken chair, hived off to the local skip at the first available opportunity.
So a cheap, easy and convenient (if slightly disturbing) alternative is to use a glass bowl, wedged down a very clean toilet. The toxins that can come from heated plastic make a glass bowl a much preferable alternative. I doubt that anyone’s vagina is going to improve from breathing in a toxic steam. Get a glass bowl, the type you would use for mixing baking ingredients, fill it with boiling water and any herbs that you may wish to use (see below), carefully carry it to the bathroom and rest it in the neck of the toilet, check it isn’t too hot and won’t burn you (remembering that ‘downstairs’ is a particularly sensitive area), sit on the loo with your bottom half completely naked, cover yourself with a blanket, reach for your favourite book and relax for 10-20 minutes until it a) goes cold, b) you’ve had enough or c) your partner returns home and you are still firmly in the closet when it comes to your yoni steaming practises.
It is as simple as that. One thing of critical importance to remember is which bowl is your ‘special yoni bowl’. You don’t want to use it for baking, unless you want to make a vagina loaf with a hint of toilet bacteria.
What does it feel like to do a yoni steam?
You experience a warmth below that is both comforting and disconcerting in equal measure, like when you sit on a warm seat on a bus and wonder who or what was there before you. After the initial half minute of feeling odd, it is a wonderfully warming and relaxing experience, just the two of you enjoying each other’s company, like taking your mum on a spa day, except you’ve traded your mum for your vagina (sorry mum, better luck next time). It’s a time to sit back (on the loo), relax with a good book and feel weirdly in touch with your feminine side.
What herbs to use for a yoni steam
My fertility masseuse advised me that I could use any herbs that I had knocking around at home or in the garden. Except sage. Sage dries you out and nobody wants a craggy old muff drier than a dirt track in the summer sun. I went with mint for two reasons 1) I thought that it sounded ‘fresh’ and 2) we had a plentiful store of mint growing out of control in our garden. Safe to say that my herbal selection was not based on a careful understanding of the medicinal impacts of certain herbs.
There are specifically curated herbal mixtures for yoni steams that are available to purchase online. Etsy, Ebay, even Amazon (good old Amazon, it really does sell everything doesn’t it) all have herbalists that sell yoni steam herbs. I haven’t tried any so I am unfortunately not in a position to recommend any, but it may be worth checking out. I can recommend out of control mint as a cheap alternative.
A warning: Be careful of essential oils in a yoni steam as they can be strong and stingy. The phrase ‘feel the burn’ should be reserved solely for exercise workouts and has no appropriate place during a yoni steam.
Conclusion on yoni steaming
Give it a try and see whether it makes a difference to your cycle complaints or period pain. Where is the harm in trying? Provided that you don’t burn yourself on the steam (don’t be a plonker), expect too much (it is just hot water and some plants after all) or hope for immediate change (remember to have the expectations of a middle class lady engaging in a mild political protest).
For me, within a few months and after 2-3 yoni steams, it reduced the amount of spotting at the end of my period. That was the single hope that I had for the yoni and it achieved it. So for me it s a thumbs up. But there isn’t much research, I can’t guarantee it will work and I don’t want you to burn your vag, so whether to steam or not to steam, I will leave up to your good judgment.