Steam-cleaning your vagina like Gwyneth Paltrow is not recommended

30/01/15

Gwyneth Paltrow

Who knew? Steam-cleaning your vagina is a thing, according to Gwyneth Paltrow at least.

She's praised the treatment on her website, Goop, saying visitors to LA "have to do it".

"You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus."

The treatment costs about $50 (£33) - though doctors have told Newsbeat its benefits aren't clear.

According to the spa she recommended, by allowing the steam to enter through the genital area, you are targeting a more "effective site of absorption".

"Although touted for its use for women, it may also be used for both men and women who suffer from haemorrhoid discomfort," they add.

'Fight infections'

Tikkun Spa claims the treatment can help with a variety of medical conditions, including protecting the uterus from ulcers and tumours, regulating periods and helping fight infections.

Under its bold claims, they write: "The above statement have not been evaluated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)."

This means that the US Department of Health hasn't confirmed any of those medical benefits are true.

So how would doctors recommend women maintain a healthy vagina?

Gwyneth Paltrow

"The vagina is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions (discharge)," the NHS explains.

Douches and vaginal wipes are not necessary to maintain a healthy vagina.

"Vaginal discharge is not 'always a bad sign'," says Dr Suzy Elneil, consultant in urogynaecology at University College Hospital, London.

"There is a myth that copious clear or white discharge is associated with sexually transmitted infections."

She says changes in the amount of discharge can be hormonal - linked to the menstrual cycle, for example.

'Healthy bacteria'

The NHS recommends avoiding perfumed soaps, gels and antiseptics as these can change the healthy balance of pH and bacteria in the vagina.

Instead you should use an un-perfumed soap to wash around the area. The inside of the vagina will clean itself with natural vaginal secretions.

"I can't think of any circumstances where douches [when water is flushed into the vagina] are helpful, because all they do is wash out everything that's in the vagina, including all the healthy bacteria," says Professor Ronnie Lamont of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The steam from hot water can cause scalding and as with any steam treatment the NHS advises caution.

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