Most of the time Chrissy Teigen says what everyone else won't — and no topic is off limits. From stretch marks to postpartum underwear, Teigen puts it all out there. Yet her latest Instagram post detailing her self-care routine, following the birth of her son Miles, has experts worried.
“Face mask/heat pad/vagina steam. No I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt right? *vagina dissolves*,” Teigen wrote.
But Dr. Jen Gunter — author of the upcoming book “Vagina and Vulva Bible” — immediately replied that vaginal steaming can, in fact, hurt.
“The vagina steam is a scam. Potentially harmful. Sitz bath definitely endorsed,” Gunther wrote on Twitter.
For many, sitz baths and vaginal steaming probably sound like weird and confusing terms. But doctors have long recommended that women recovering from delivery, ulcers or a Bartholin’s abscess, a rare infected cyst in the Bartholin duct in the vagina, soak their vaginas and rectums in warm water up to their hips. Sitz baths relax swollen and inflamed tissue and reduce pain and itching.
“A sitz bath is quite soothing,” Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN at the Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology at Orlando Health, told TODAY, via email. “They work by helping to increase blood flow to the areas that need it for healing.”
While it might sound like a warm steam on the vagina might accomplish the same thing, there is no evidence that steaming works.
“As far as herbal steaming is concerned, there is not much literature on that,” Greves said.
Dr. April Dunmyre, an OB-GYN at Magee Women's Care Associates at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, agreed.
"I would never recommend vaginal steaming to any of my patients," warned Dunmyre. "If they are getting their water to boiling, it's going to be warm and we worry about burns that would be difficult to treat."
Doctors know that it’s easy to disrupt the flora in the vagina, which can lead to more problems, such as irritation and infection. Doctors do not recommend that women clean their vaginas with perfumed soaps or douche, for example, because they kill good bacteria. And it makes it easier for bad bacteria to overgrow.
“The vagina is a self-cleaning oven, which is awesome,” Greves said. “You may feel the need to do something to it but you don’t.”
Adding steam could upset the delicate vaginal environment, causing irritation and infection. For a woman recovering from delivery, this could mean extra suffering.
“The concern with vaginal steaming also is, what if it causes harm? What if the steam is too hot and what if the herbs cause more irritation to the area,” Greves said.
"Some patients are always intrigued by what they see on TV and read in magazines, but that is not the best evidence to go off of," stressed Dunmyre.
For all of the new moms out there, this time, steer clear of Teigen's methods. Instead, stick to warm sitz baths — with clean water.