Dr. Laurena White is an OB/GYN with a specialization in reproductive endocrinology and acupuncture. Founder of the Eudamonia Center her clinic is like no other. It includes a massage therapist, doula, physical therapist, nutritionist, yoga instructor and even a vaginal steam facilitator on staff. On the topic of vaginal steaming, Dr. White not only does the practice herself but she also commonly includes it in her patients’ treatment plans. Curious as to how Dr. White addresses negative media articles that often circulate about vaginal steaming, I asked for her response on the top arguments against vaginal steaming. Below are her answers.
Argument #1: People Shouldn’t Steam Because it Can Burn
“That is true. Steam can burn. If you’re not properly trained to work with steam even in your kitchen it can burn your face or hands. That's why you need to have an adequately trained, certified, vaginal steam facilitator who is aware of temperature controls, who has a system in place to monitor temperature, just like you would monitor temperature on your kitchen stove. You don't leave your stove unattended when you're boiling water or preparing things. You take very high consideration in terms of what you're cooking, what you're working with, and the timing of it. Having someone who is very aware of those same things when you're steaming, avoids the opportunity for you to get burned -- just like it would be in the kitchen.”
Argument #2: There’s No Way Steam Can Get in the Uterus
“There are so many things that need to be treated that aren’t in the uterus. You could have multiple cysts that could be on the external genitalia. You could have areas in the vagina that need treatment or the bottom of the cervix which there’s a straight passageway for the steam to touch.
Another component to consider is that the actual warmth of the steam is relaxing to all of the muscles. The simple effect of relaxing the musculature around the reproductive system is therapeutic.
As doctors we also prescribe vaginal suppositories that get into the bloodstream because the membrane is more permeable than any other substance. Herbs included in the steam would absolutely get into the bloodstream. Because steam is literally only water it makes it even that much easier for it to permeate those membranes.
Another thing that we have to consider is that the brown and black menses that the body gets rid of after steaming is a sign that the steam may actually be opening the cervical os. That old residue coming out -- that's your healing. That's you getting better. That brown and black blood is not the adequate color. And you're getting rid of it in a way that's healthy and makes room for healthy tissue to regenerate. There was no scraping of your endometrial lining. There were no invasive procedures. Literally, the warmth of the therapeutic steam relaxed the musculature and loosened up all those things that weren't serving. Just like the lining of your uterus sheds every month, now you've gotten rid of old residue that is no longer serving you so that you can have a healthy period -- bright red blood for each menstrual period to come.”
Argument #3: There’s No Scientific Evidence that Vaginal Steam Works
“That is right. There is no scientific evidence it works. And also, I have about a hundred patients who are glad that they are steaming. They steam monthly or even more regularly because they know from their own proof that steam works. It’s like acupuncture. There's also no "scientific" evidence that says that it works and yet how many people have acupuncture appointments? They do it because it works.
On the flip side, if we want to make that argument, there's a lot of scientific evidence that things do work, and eventually they get recalled by the FDA after they've done years of damage.
So, we can have that conversation, I just don't want to engage in it. Because you're right, there is no scientific evidence that it works. But I have patients who know that it does. That's not a conversation I'm going to engage in.”
Argument #4: Steam Could Be Deadly Because Air Should Not Be Blown Into the Vagina
“Yeah, if air was being blown into the vagina, you're right, that could cause an embolism. But air is not being blown into the vagina when you're steaming. It's steam. Not air. Steam is water, water is not air. There's no way there could be an embolism of any sort when you're steaming, because there is no air being blown into the vagina.
One thing I do tell people however is to go to someone who is trained. Steaming at home is not the way to begin, because there are different stages where something could potentially go wrong. You need to be with a certified practitioner -- someone who is trained. Patients will tell me which herbs they’re using and, unfortunately, sometimes the herbs are actually not beneficial for the condition they have. Yes, your friend, or your sister, or whoever, may be using those herbs and it's working for her, but you have a different condition and these herbs may actually be contraindicated for the condition that you have. That's why you need to go to someone who's trained.”
Argument #5: The Uterus is Self-Cleansing so There Is No Reason to Steam
“The uterus and the vagina are self cleansing when they're operating optimally. But if there's any type of malfunction or dysfunction in the cycle -- clotting, brown blood -- then your uterus and your vagina are not functioning optimally. The object is to get your vagina and uterus to optimal health and wellness. To do that you are facilitating the process to get them to that point. However if your vagina and your uterus are functioning optimally, you don't need any of these things. But there are so many uteruses that are not healthy.”
Argument #6: Vaginal Steaming is Another Form of Vagina Shaming Convincing Women They are Dirty or Inadequate
“Vaginal steaming extends far beyond a cleansing modality. It has nothing to do with cleanliness at all. Steaming is really a therapeutic modality that addresses a dysfunction in your reproductive system. Just like any endometrial ablation. I mean that's a therapeutic modality. It's very invasive, and almost a little bit too invasive considering potentially what you're getting done, and could be dangerous. This is steam we're working with here. I mean I want everyone to focus on the fact that this is steam. Steam evaporates. Like, this is not a solid mass of anything that's entering your vagina. It's steam that has been medically infused with healing herbs. This isn't something we made up in the United States like, two years ago. This is something that's been going on for thousands of years, in different cultures, in different communities, that literally has been something that's been healing women for eons. The actual therapeutic modality, in and of itself, is designed to be healing, and there isn't anything about it that's shaming your vagina. Steam is actually treating your vagina to a wonderful experience. So that you can enjoy your vagina even more.
I steam after my periods and I don't have any reproductive malfunction at all or any dysfunction whatsoever. I'm actually proud of my periods, I brag about it, because my period is really amazing. But there is that tending-to self component after my period, where I just want to have that forty-five minutes where I am relaxing, knowing that, therapeutically, I am not being "cleansed" but I'm being tended to -- even with everything working and operating. It's not that you're dirty.
People take showers too but just because you take a shower doesn’t mean that you’re dirty or have something to be ashamed of. You do it to maintain and prevent from accumulating dirt.”
Argument #7: Vaginal Steaming Disrupts Healthy Flora and Can Cause Infections or a pH Imbalance
“That is a possibility if you're steaming yourself and don't know what herbs you're using and you are steaming too long -- all those things are possible and true. However, that's why you need to steam with someone who is certified and trained. When looking for a doctor you don't just go to anyone or decide to treat yourself. You look for someone whose been educated as a doctor and who is board-certified and licensed. It's the same thing with the vaginal steam. Yes, you can steam yourself, it's just not a good idea.
One, take the opportunity to let someone take care of you. Like, think about that. Let someone take care of you for thirty-five minutes to an hour, so you can enjoy the experience, so you're not having to worry about the temperature, the time, the right herbs. Let someone who's been trained to do this, do this for you.
All those risks can and will happen when you're operating outside of a trained professional -- because not every herb is for every single condition. If you're using the wrong herbs for wrong conditions, yes, you can disrupt, damage, the physiologically normal, protective flora in your vagina. Temperature and length of time is also really important. You don't want it to be too hot, you want it to be comfortable. So when you're using the incorrect herbs, for the wrong period of time all these things factor into this process. Steam is a healing modality, and, as such, should be respected and conducted and performed by a certified professional.
Speaking of damaging flora we have to talk about doctor-prescribed antibiotics. We have scientific proof that that’s what is harming the vaginal flora and creating resistance to BV. I think it's a catch-22 because yes, you are killing the bad germs, but part of antibiotics is that you're also killing some of that good stuff. Literally, with vaginal steaming, it's water that is infused with herbs. That's why selection of herbs is so important, because some herbs are meant to treat bacteria, some herbs are meant to treat viral infections, some herbs are meant to do a combination of the two. And dosing is important. I mean, there's just so many different layers to this that it's necessary that you have a professional because not every steam is meant for every body. Two people could both have BV but there could be other factors that go along with it that require that they have different herbs and steam setups.”
Argument #8: Steaming Could Cause Higher Risk of HIV
“No. I can't...Again, I want people to realize, steaming is water. Like, water that comes from a faucet and it’s hot. It's not anything more. Additionally you get the medicinal effects of the herbs that are in the water. I find it simultaneously frustrating, and simultaneously hilarious that people will literally put carcinogenic, pharmaceutical drugs in their body, without even blinking about what the components of what they're ingesting. Food even has synthetic materials in it and people don’t think twice about it. But, now, when we talk about vaginal steam -- where there literally is nothing but plants and water that's been boiled...how is that supposed to cause HIV??? That we're even having this conversation, when people are eating synthetic Impossible Burgers. I just can't. There's no way to even entertain that conversation because it's based on lunacy.
To learn more about Dr. White and her views on vaginal steaming please check out her interview on the Hot and Steamy Podcast.
Dr. Laurena White
The Eudamonia Center
Keli Garza is the owner of Steamy Chick and the founder of the Peristeam Hydrotherapy Institute for vaginal steam research and training.