Woman Left With Agonising Burns On Vagina After Controversial ‘Steaming’ Procedure
A Canadian woman was left with second-degree burns on her vagina after attempting a controversial ‘steaming’ procedure.
The unnamed 62-year-old suffered the burns after being advised by a traditional Chinese doctor to sit over boiling water infused with herbs to treat her uncomfortable vaginal prolapse.
Medics at the University of Calgary documented the case in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, where Dr Magali Robert, lead author of the report, explained vaginal steaming has been used for centuries in some Asian and African countries.
The woman, who was of Chinese origin, was considered to be healthy aside from a stage four vaginal prolapse, which had been present for nine months. According to the NHS, vaginal prolapse occurs when one or more of the organs in the pelvis, such as the uterus, bowel or bladder, slip from their normal position and bulge into the vagina.
It most often happens due to childbirth or pregnancy but can also be caused by obesity, menopause, strenuous exercise or medications.
The 62-year-old tried multiple pessaries, devices which go into the vagina to relieve symptoms, but they had failed. She was on a waiting list for surgery when she turned up at an emergency unit complaining there was blood in her vaginal discharge.
She told doctors two days earlier she’d followed the advice of a traditional Chinese doctor, who told her to mix an unspecified herbal medicine blend in a pan of boiling water and place it on the rim of the toilet bowl before sitting on the toilet seat for 20 minutes.
The patient repeated the procedure on two occasions one day apart and when doctors examined her they found she had sustained second-degree burns on the cervix and linings of the vagina.
Medics treated the 62-year-old with antibiotics and told her to wrap the area with gauze twice a day. Her surgery for vaginal prolapse was postponed until she had healed.
Advocates of steaming claim it tightens and refreshes the vagina but gynaecologists have warned the procedure can cause infections and is not proven to work.
According to the Mail Online, Dr Naomi Sutton, a sexual health consultant for Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, explained:
There is absolutely no medical or scientific evidence that vaginal steaming will help vaginal prolapse, cause vaginal tightening, or any of the other claims this treatment might make.
The vagina is a self cleaning tube which should never be “washed” or “steamed”. The vulva (external female genitalia) needs only be washed with warm water and soap if tolerated.
Vaginal spas are preying on women’s insecurities about their bodies and shaming them into spending time and money on unnecessary products and treatments.
Dr Robert said ‘there are many posts on the internet warning women of the potential for burns caused by steaming’ though added until now there haven’t been any ‘documented cases in the medical literature’ of burns from steaming.
The controversial procedure is thought to have gained attention after Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed it on her popular website Goop.com. Some spas and health centres offer the treatment, which consists of sitting on a chair with a hole in it, under which a humidifier emits herb-infused steam.
Even Chrissy Teigen has had a go:
Dr Robert went on:
Women are exposed to health information from various sources, including other allied health professionals, the internet, interpersonal communication, popular print, and television.
Our patient was recommended this therapy by a traditional Chinese doctor whom she trusted.
This exposure allows women to seek unconventional therapies, some of which may cause harm.
The NHS explain vaginal prolapse isn’t life threatening but women experiencing it should seek medical attention as sometimes treatment is needed.
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Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada