Woman, 62, is left with agonising burns after vaginal steaming

Woman, 62, is left with agonising burns on her vagina after trying controversial ‘steaming’ procedure once promoted by Gwyneth Paltrow

  • The woman, from Canada, was trying to relive symptoms of vaginal prolapse
  • The doctor told her to sit on a boiling pan of water with a herbal mix 
  • Experts have warned against V-steaming which can cause burns and infection
  • The traditional treatment is used to ‘freshen’ or ‘tighten’ the vagina
  • It is becoming popular in Western culture offered by spas

A woman was left with agonising burns after trying vaginal steaming, doctors have revealed in a gory medical report.

The unidentified 62-year-old saw a traditional Chinese doctor for advice about her uncomfortable vaginal prolapse.

He advised her to sit over boiling water infused with herbs for 20 minutes, which landed her in hospital with second-degree burns.

Medics at the University of Calgary, Canada, published the unusual case of the woman, who was of Chinese origin, in a medical journal.

Doctors who treated her say it is the first documented case of a vaginal burn from the ‘steaming’ procedure in medical literature. 

Doctors in Canada who treated the woman said the practice of vaginal steaming has become more frequent following the endorsement by Gwyneth Paltrow on her popular website Goop

The procedure was once recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow on her website Goop, which doctors believe led to a surge in popularity.

Gynaecologists have repeatedly warned ‘V-steaming’, which it is often shortened down to, can cause infections and is not proven to work. 

Dr Magali Robert, lead author of the report, said vaginal steaming has been used for centuries in some Asian and African countries. 

Advocates of the procedure claim it tightens and refreshes the vagina, and even promotes healing after childbirth.

Dr Robert, a gynaecologist, said: ‘In today’s society, steaming is another method of empowering womanhood.’

Writing in the case report, she added: ‘There are many posts on the Internet warning women of the potential for burns caused by steaming.’

But Dr Robert said – until now – there has been ‘no documented cases in the medical literature to date’ of burns from vaginal steaming.   

The woman, considered to be otherwise healthy, had stage four vaginal prolapse that had been present for nine months.

The woman was advised to sit over boiling water infused with herbs for 20 minutes, which landed her in hospital with second-degree burns


Vaginal steaming, sometimes shortened to V-steaming, is an alternative health treatment used in an attempt to clean, detoxify, or tighten the vagina. 

A woman squats or sits over steaming water containing a herbal mix, such as mugwort, rosemary, wormwood, and basil.

It has been practised in Africa, Asia and Central America for centuries. 

Gynaecologist Dr Magali Robert, University of Calgary, said: ‘Traditionally, steaming is thought to tighten the vagina and to “freshen” it.

‘It has commonly been used in African cultures during the postpartum period to improve healing.’

Now, vaginal steaming is sweeping across Western society.

At The VSPOT Medi Spa, New York, the V-Steam procedure involves lying on a bed while ‘steam infused with therapeutic herbs is targeted toward your nether regions’. 

Dr Robert said: ‘In today’s society, steaming is another method of empowering womanhood.

‘Thus the benefits are related to self-actualization through the “detoxifying” of the vagina, life optimization, and control over health.’

According to a study on vaginal practices by the World Health Organization published in 2011, one of the ways in which women practice vaginal care is by smoking, too.

The woman sits above a source of heat, such as fire, coals, hot rocks, on which water, herbs, or oils are placed to create steam or smoke.

Doctors warn side effects and potential dangers include allergic reactions, infection, and second-degree burns if the steam is too close. 

Vaginal prolapse is a common condition where the bladder, uterus and or bowel protrudes into the vagina, which can cause the feeling of a vaginal lump.

It most often happens due to childbirth or pregnancy, but can also be caused by obesity, menopause, strenuous exercise or medications.

The patient told doctors how multiple pessaries, devices that go into the vagina to relieve symptoms, had failed.

She was on a waiting list for surgery when she turned up at an emergency unit complaining of blood in her vaginal discharge. 

She stated that two days earlier she had tried vaginal steaming in an attempt to reduce the prolapse, ‘following the advice of a traditional Chinese doctor’.

The instructions were to mix an unspecified herbal medicine blend in a pan of boiling water.

She was told to place the pan on the rim of the toilet bowl and then sit on the toilet seat for 20 minutes. 

The patient repeated this on two occasions one day apart, according to the report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. 

Doctors examined the woman and found second-degree burns involving the cervix and linings of the vagina.

The burns were clearly visible because part of her vagina had prolapsed. There was no evidence of infection.

She was treated with antibiotics and had to wrap the area with gauze twice a day. Her surgery for vaginal prolapse was postponed until she had healed. 

Dr Robert said: ‘The practice of vaginal steaming has gained increased acceptance since 2015, following the endorsement by Gwyneth Paltrow on her popular website goop.com.

‘In today’s society, steaming is another method of empowering womanhood.’

In 2015, Goop published an endorsement of vaginal steaming, reviewing the treatment at Tikkun Spa in Santa Monica, California.

The review said: ‘The real golden ticket here is the Mugworth V-Steam. You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.’ 

Dr Robert said: ‘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.’  

Last week, British doctors and charities were at the forefront of slamming a vagina spa coming to the UK that offers vaginal steaming. Pictured, Athena Lamnisos from Eve Appeal

Dr Philippa Kaye said vaginal procedures are unnecessary 

Dr Swati Jha, consultant gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said women with vaginal prolapse should always see a medical professional.

She said: ‘Vaginal prolapse is not life threatening but it can affect quality of life.

‘Vaginal prolapse often does not need treatment but for women whose lives are negatively affected, there are a number of treatment options from weight loss and pelvic floor exercises, to a device inserted into the vagina, called a vaginal pessary, which holds the prolapsed organ in place. 

‘For women who fail to respond to conservative measures and severe cases, surgery may be recommended.’

Last week, British experts slammed a vagina spa that is set to come to the UK later this year that offers V-steaming.

The VSPOT Medi Spa offers customers in New York vagina steaming ‘infused with therapeutic herbs’, for $125 (£102), alongside other treatments such as a gold-infused ‘facial’.

And from the autumn, British women will be able to have the procedures too.

Vaginal steaming at VSPOT Medi Spa, known as V-Steam, involves lying on a bed while ‘steam infused with therapeutic herbs is targeted toward your nether regions’.

Dr Vanessa Mackay, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), reminded women the vagina cleans itself.

She said: ‘The vagina contains good bacteria, which are there to protect it.

‘If these bacteria are disturbed it can lead to infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush, and inflammation.

‘Steaming the vagina could affect this healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels and cause irritation, infection and inflammation. It could also burn the delicate skin around the vagina.’  

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