Ditch meftal-spas: Discover the lesser-known benefits of vaginal steaming for period pain

30 May,2024 12:55 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Ainie Rizvi

Struggling with cramps, leg pain, cysts or menstrual discomfort? Medical experts suggest a lesser-known, all-natural technique designed to reduce pre menstrual syndrome, painful periods, fibroids, endometriosis, and enhance libido

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock


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Sakshi Mali's menstrual health took a dark turn when she developed a 4.5-centimetre-wide cyst in 2022. "I used to suffer from severe mid-cycle cramping for one and half years and wouldn't do without anti-spasmodic," the 32-year-old tells this writer.

Seeking remedies, she experimented with homeopathy for six months without success. Additionally, hormonal medicines from gynecologists failed to help. It wasn't until 2023 that she discovered the benefits of vaginal steaming, which began to alleviate her severe menstrual pain.

"I did vaginal steaming for one month and the midcycle pain went away like magic, I conceived naturally without any medication in a couple of months. Also, when I went for my first sonography, there were no remaining cysts either," shares Mali.

While this may seem too good to be true, it appears that more women are opting for the practice of vaginal steaming also known as yoni-steaming. For Anshula Singhal, the problem of severe pain in the pelvis and legs after intercourse had become a norm until she steamed her lady bits. "Within two months - I was relieved of the pain and could go about sexual activity without any fear," informs the 40-year-old.

Recent studies have highlighted potential health risks associated with the long-term use of Meftal Spas, a common medication used to address menstrual pain.In a recent advisory issued by the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission, health concerns have been raised regarding the use of this widely-consumed painkiller, Meftal. The report highlights that the medicine contains mefenamic acid which is known to induce allergic reactions

While the medicine can provide temporary relief from symptoms like cramps and abdominal discomfort, prolonged use may lead to adverse effects such as gastric irritation, kidney damage and increased risk of cardiovascular issues. Given these concerns, many individuals are exploring natural alternatives like vaginal steaming as a safer option for managing period pain and related symptoms.

(L-R) Herbs that go into the steam box, Dr Prity Maniar, Mumbai-based certified vaginal steaming practitioner

So, what is vaginal steaming?
Dr Komal Bhadu consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Ruby Hall Clinic informs, "Vaginal steaming, also known as yoni steaming, is a traditional practice where a person sits over a pot or basin filled with hot water infused with herbs. They typically cover themselves with a cloth or robe to trap the steam, allowing it to permeate the vaginal area."

Dr Prity Maniar, a certified vaginal steaming practitioner and founder of The Womb Story, shares that traditionally, herbs were sprinkled on burning coal inside a pot that produced fry smoke meant to warm a woman's genitals. This ancient Ayurvedic practice, however, posed risks due to the use of burning coals, which could damage the skin and cause indoor pollution. Additionally, the unavailability of coals made it difficult to perform.

Also Read: Her lady bits are on strike: Misconceptions about female pleasure men need to know

Maniar took cues from this practice to devise a new-age steam box that addresses the shortcomings associated with the use of coal. "Now, I use water as a medium instead of coals. The hot water bowl goes inside this steam box and you can sit over it and consume the steam comfortably through an opening which is just around the perineal area." It can be done right from teenage to menopause and later too.

However, there is limited scientific evidence supporting these claims, and additional research is necessary to validate its effectiveness, informs Bhadu.

But why steam your lady bits?
Maniar remarks that while it's true that the uterus is a self-cleansing organ and periods help to detox/ cleanse, so are our gut and our digestive system, yet we still do a gut detox despite eliminating stool every day. Similarly, a uterus detox needs to be given a thought.

Advocates of vaginal steaming share that this natural remedy offers a multitude of benefits for a wide range of menstrual and period-related issues, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful periods, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, low libido, menopause, irregular periods, short cycles and postpartum recovery.

Maniar adds that this practice is not only advantageous for addressing physical symptoms but also plays a significant role in enhancing emotional well-being. It helps release pent-up emotions often unknowingly stored in the womb or uterus. Additionally, vaginal steaming enhances sensuality making it a holistic approach to women's health. "The practice of vaginal steaming has deep roots in various cultures across India and around the globe, including traditions from Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Mexican and Mayan cultures. These traditions have long recognised and scientifically validated the benefits of steaming, especially during the postpartum period," she adds.

How safe is vaginal steaming?
The safety of vaginal steaming is a topic of debate among medical professionals. While proponents claim it offers benefits that have been discussed above, there are significant concerns about its safety.

Potential risks include burns from hot steam, infections from unsterilised equipment and disruptions to the natural vaginal flora, which can lead to other health issues. Bhadu adds that there are chances of potential irritation or allergic reactions to the herbs used in the steaming process.

On the contrary, Maniar opines that there are no side effects associated with using the steam box as it uses water. "If one is sitting over the steam box, there are no chances of burns as there's no constant source of heat/ steam. And when it comes to the pH of the vagina, sexual intercourse and semen would change the pH and not steaming." Maniar claims this after doing the vagina pH tests post using the steam box.


Group session for vaginal steaming

How to prepare for vaginal steaming?
Here is how you can prepare for a vaginal steaming session at home:

1. You will need a bowl of hot water and a selection of herbs suited to your needs. The container can be made of stainless steel, glass, or ceramic to ensure safety and maintain the temperature of the water.
2. Boil water and pour it into your chosen container. Add the herbs to the hot water, allowing them to steep and release their beneficial properties into the steam.
3. Place the bowl in a comfortable, quiet area where you can relax. You can choose to kneel over the bowl or use a steam box designed for this purpose, which provides added comfort and support.
4. Carefully position yourself over the bowl or steam box, ensuring that the steam can reach the vaginal area. It is important to keep a safe distance to avoid burns and ensure a gentle steam experience.
5. Drape a blanket or large towel around your waist and the bowl to trap the steam. Sit comfortably and relax for 20-30 minutes, allowing the steam to work its magic.

Also Read: Endometriosis affects 43 million women in India: Study

What to expect during the steam session: Many women report a variety of sensations and emotional releases during their steam sessions. Some describe it as a melting-down effect, feeling as though tension is dissolving away. Others feel a sense of release as if something is being let go from within, informs Bhadu.

What goes into the steam box
Experts list down the herbs that go into the making of the vaginal steam box: Dried rose, lavender, basil, rosemary, chamomile, calendula, nettles and mugwort are commonly used in vaginal steaming, each offering distinct benefits.

Some of these herbs, such as lavender and rosemary, help increase blood flow, while others, like chamomile and calendula, are known for their infection-fighting properties. Additionally, herbs like nettles can help reduce menstrual flow.

Maniar emphasises that "It's essential that these herbs are not combined randomly, as their effects can vary greatly. I customise herb blends after conducting an online consultation to understand each individual's menstrual cycle, medical history and specific symptoms"

How often can you steam
Just as diet, exercise and medication plans vary for each individual, so too must steam plans be tailored according to a person's menstrual history. Each plan can differ in frequency, ranging from 3 to 6 times per month or menstrual cycle, depending on the cycle's length and specific symptoms, outlines Maniar.

It's essential to avoid vaginal steaming during certain conditions: when on periods or spotting, during pregnancy, if there's an active infection and for those trying to conceive naturally, steaming should be avoided until ovulation.

Also Read: Half of slum girls don't change sanitary napkins in school, survey reveals

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