Vaginal Steam Baths
In this article, I just wanted to share a new treatment that I learned about from my PT; I've tried it (I am my own guinea pig, after all) and had success! So I wanted to tell you all about it...I hope it helps some of you!
So what's the treatment?
Vaginal Steam Baths.
Please note: I don't get paid to endorse anything (in fact, I don't get paid at all). All the things I link to are just to help you see the stuff I'm talking about and/or to provide more information that seems relevant.
All in all, the idea behind steam baths is to reduce muscle tightness and muscle spasms and to help with certain skin conditions. I have found that they help to alleviate symptoms like burning and "rawness" as well as helping with things like constipation due to muscle tightness. Other than the almost immediate pain-relieving-factor that the vaginal steam baths have (less pain with sitting and wearing pants!), one of my favorite aspects of taking the time to do the steam baths is that they have really help me with my dilator work. While I've progressed quite a bit in terms of the sizes of dilators that I can insert, I still find that I have some pain upon penetration. I have found that after doing a vaginal steam bath and some relaxation exercises, the dilators are easier to insert and cause significantly less pain.
I have also started to notice that vaginal steam baths are good for my vulvar skin. Since my skin is a bit fragile, a wrong move with a dilator can sometimes cause tiny tears at about 6 o'clock. Steam baths seem to help heal those tears more quickly (I assume this is because they promote blood flow to the area) and even seem to prevent tears from happening as easily (especially if I do the steam baths right before the dilator work...again, I think the blood flow to the area helps here).
(Please note that this is just my own experience and I haven't found this supported in research literature...although this may be because I have yet to see any literature on this treatment at all.)
Ok so now that I've covered the benefits on doing vaginal steam baths, I'd like to describe how to actually do them. Luckily, it's a pretty easy remedy and not a very time consuming one!
How to Do Vaginal Steam Baths
There are 2 options for how to execute here so read all of the directions before deciding:
1) Boil anywhere from 4 cups of water to an entire gallon (how much water you need will depend on method you're going to do).
2) If you're going to add any herbs to the water (see below), steep them in the water for 5 minutes with the lid on before doing the steam bath.
3a) Option 1: Fill a several-quart tupperware container with the boiled water. Place it on the floor and kneel/squat over it. I prefer this method because getting on my knees allows me to control how far away or close to the water I get (as in, if it's too hot at first, I can move up a bit). A drawback of this method is that it can be hard to be on your knees for the entire amount of time and I've started placing a pillow under each knee to make it easier.
3b) Option 2: Pour the gallon or so of water into a bucket and place the entire bucket into your toilet. Then you can sit on the toilet as usual; because it's harder to control your distance away from the water, you might need to let some of the steam escape before it's at an acceptable temperature. I happen to be a bit of a germ-freak so I prefer not to place/take out anything from my toilet (plus, I don't feel like scrubbing the bucket after each time) but this option is the more comfy one.
4) Isa Herrera (the author of the book and a physical therapist) recommends doing this for up to 20 minutes or until all of the steam has dissipated.
Afterward, I like to massage the muscles around the vagina that tend to get tight and then I often do my dilator work.
The author of the book recommends doing the vaginal steam baths on a weekly basis and then bumping up frequency during flare ups. Despite not really considering myself to be in a flare up (I've been holding pretty steady but it's not at the level I would like to be steady at, so to speak), I have been doing them pretty much every day because I feel as though the effects wear off unless I do so. I suppose this is significantly impacted by how severe your pain/spasming is and what other activities you do (I exercise quite a bit--to stay sane--and my muscles often react in response).
Adding Herbs to Vaginal Steam Baths
Above, I mentioned that you can put certain herbs in the water and there are quite a few to choose from depending on the effect you're looking for. I love this idea because I take so many supplements and use so many ointments/creams/suppositories that I like the "hands-off" approach to getting some of those benefits (and there is no immediate pain of putting something on/in and no side effects!).
I don't feel right putting the complete list of possible herbs to use here but I want to put some highlights so that you can see what kind of options you have and what benefits they can provide. (Note: it's best to consult your naturopath/physician before you try adding the herbs. In the meantime, the regular steam baths are effective by themselves.)
Calendula: much like the calendula creams that you've probably already heard about, this herb is supposed to help reduce pain levels. The reasons for this include helping to treat skin conditions such as cuts/fissures, inflammation, irritation/burning sensation.
Marshmallow Root: helps to relieve irritation by coating skin surfaces. I've found that I feel less raw after adding this to my steam baths, especially if I am having burning with urination.
Oregano: this is supposed to help with muscle spasms and with providing relief from infections.
Rosemary: this one is known for its ability to help stop yeast from growing and its spasm-relieving properties.
Again, the complete list can be found in the book Ending Female Pain, pages 212-213 (the entire section on steam baths starts on page 210).
So that's that with vaginal steam baths! They're pretty easy to do and I have found them to be immensely helpful for pain relief. I'm also incredibly happy with how much they have helped me with my dilator work which is an important but often a bit of a painful process.
Please leave a comment in the comments sections below to let everyone know how these go for you if you choose to give them a try!