Are steaming and douching good for your vagina?

Vaginal steaming, also known as yoni steaming, is an ancient health practice whereby a woman squats or sits over steaming water containing herbs such as mugwort, rosemary, wormwood and basil. Steaming is a cleansing and energising ritual and is supposed to help balance female hormones. There are mixed views from physicians about the value of manually cleansing your vagina by douching or by using other techniques, such as steaming. This is because the vagina is very effective at cleaning itself and any aggressive cleansing regime, by whatever method, can do more harm than good. Gwyneth Paltrow’s widely read women’s website gave rave reviews to the benefits of steaming your vagina, but we’re not convinced. Here’s why:

Is vaginal steaming worth the risk?

We don’t think so.

Steam is really, really hot, often above boiling point! The risk of burning your vulva and vaginal tissue is very high. This would be extremely painful and uncomfortable and could lead to other problems such as infection through the site of the burn. As well as the potential damage to the vulva the rest of the perineum, including the anus and urethra, could be damaged by misdirected steam. This would be painful and could lead to more complicated problems.

Cleansing your vagina with steam can be drying and this will disrupt the natural balance of vaginal bacteria that live there. Vaginal dryness is uncomfortable and the imbalance of the vaginal flora can lead to microbial problems, such as swelling, itch and irritation and bacterial vaginosis or yeast problems.

Claims about balancing hormones seem unlikely. Hormones are not produced in the vagina or uterus and it is unlikely that steam would get to the ovaries to affect the hormones which are produced there.

Steam's effectiveness as a ‘uterus cleanser’ is highly questionable too. Steam entering the vagina is unlikely to make it to the uterus and any uterine flora there should be left alone and certainly not cleaned out.

Is douching a better option?

Women who use a hand-held shower attachment to wash their vulva could be douching, whether they realise it or not. Douching is not necessary, as the vagina is very efficient at cleaning itself. However, there are specific times when it may be helpful for some women to use a specially designed vaginal douche.

We don’t advise you to use a vaginal douche every day. You may like to use a gentle, natural douche after your period or after sexual intercourse. There is no need to use a vaginal douche more frequently than that.

Take care to choose a natural, gentle douching fluid and an ergonomic, easy-to-use design, like the Multi-Gyn Vaginal Douche. Always take care when inserting any item into your vagina and make sure you are relaxed and comfortable before attempting it.