Can Vaginal Steaming Help in Postpartum Wound Healing?

    Can Vaginal Steaming Help in Postpartum Wound Healing?

    In the Philippines, using guava leaves to heal certain wounds is widely done and accepted. But is it okay to use them as a treatment for postpartum vaginal wounds? Will it be safe to incorporate the leaves of the bayabas tree in hot, vaginal steam?

    What is Vaginal Steaming?

    Vaginal steaming is what some people refer to as the “facial” for the vagina. In this procedure, the woman sits over a bowl of steaming water with infused herbs. Vaginal steaming is not a new invention. In fact, in the Philippines, it is an accepted practice in rural communities. But now, it is re-emerging in spas due to its perceived benefits.

    The idea is that the heat from the steam will open up the pores of the vaginal and vulvar skin. When the pores are open, they can “absorb” the medicinal benefits of the herbs infused in the water. Supporters of this procedure even claim that the medicinal benefits can also reach the uterus.

    The Benefits of Vaginal Steaming

    Before we discuss how to use guava leaves to heal wounds of childbirth, let’s first talk about the benefits of vaginal steaming.

    According to Harvard Health, “there is no scientific evidence to support vaginal steaming.” Still, many believe that it can help with:

    However, these are all “purported” benefits, and more research is needed. That doesn’t mean, though, that there are no attempts to prove these benefits.

    For instance, here in the Philippines, several researchers had conducted a study to determine whether vaginal steaming will be an effective way to heal a postpartum episiotomy wound.

    Rather than using multiple herbs, they added guava leaves to the water. They also used the cooled steam water as a wash for the perineal area.

    They chose guava or bayabas mainly because the Department of Health recognizes its antiseptic properties. Researchers wanted to know if guava leaves are effective in the treatment for wounds, particularly postpartum wounds, if they are to be used with hot steam.

    Here’s how the experiment went:

    Hot Steam with Guava Leaves and Postpartum Wound Care

    During the birth of their baby, many mothers need an episiotomy, the surgical cut (incision) at the opening of the vagina, to aid in the delivery. The reason for an episiotomy is to prevent tears in the muscles of the perineum.

    Usually, an episiotomy wound will heal in 4 to 6 weeks. But that still depends on the size of the incision and the material used for the suture.

    As mentioned, the researchers from the Angeles University Foundation Medical Center wanted to know if guava leaves are indeed effective in the treatment of wounds, particularly, episiotomy wounds.

    The Methods

  • The study invited 127 women participants, ages 18 to 45 years old.
  • The researchers divided the participants into 3 groups.
  • One group received guava leaves hot steam and wash. They tried the remedy 3 times a day, for 7 days.
  • The second group took antibiotics 3 times a day for 7 days.
  • Lastly, the third group had the hot steam and wash, and the antibiotic treatment.
  • To determine whether it was effective to use guava leaves in treatment for wounds, they measured the participants’ pain scores and REEDA scores. REEDA is a scale that assesses the inflammatory process using the following parameters: Redness, edema (swelling), ecchymosis (discoloration of the skin), discharge, and approximation of wound edges.
  • The researchers measured these scores at 24 hours, 3 days, and 7 days after giving birth.
  • The Results

    At the end of the study, the researchers revealed that there is no significant difference between the pain scores and REEDA scores in all three groups.

    Therefore, they concluded that the use of hot steam and wash with guava leaves is just as effective as oral antibiotic treatment. Moreover, they found that there’s no additional benefit in combining the guava leaves treatment and oral antibiotic treatment.

    Their overall conclusion was: “A vaginal steam and wash with guava or bayabas leaves could be recommended for wound care after normal spontaneous delivery with episiotomy.”

    Safety of Vaginal Steaming

    Although the study by the researchers in the Angeles University Foundation Medical Center seems to prove the effectiveness of guava leaves for wounds, there are still some safety concerns.

    For instance, a 62-year old woman from Canada suffered second-degree burns after trying vaginal steaming. She stated that she had vaginal prolapse, a condition wherein the bowel, bladder, and uterus protrudes from the vagina. She tried the hot steam remedy to help with the condition.

    Another safety concern is infection. Experts say that the heat brought by the steam can encourage the growth of bacteria and yeast.

    Finally, there are very few studies about vaginal steaming, and women who are expecting should not use this remedy. As always, it is best to consult your doctor.

    Should You Try Vaginal Steaming?

    According to gynecologists, it is not necessary to do vaginal steaming outside of postpartum wound care.

    If your goal is to cleanse the vagina, hot steam treatment is irrelevant. The vagina is a “self-cleaning organ.” Doctors don’t even recommend the use of soap and feminine care products.

    On the other hand, if you aim to absorb the medicinal benefits of the herbs, there is still no study to prove that they can penetrate the vaginal skin.

    If you want to promote wound healing after childbirth and argue that the study above seems to suggest that it’s effective, remember that the study also had the women use guava leaves extract as a perineal wash.

    In conclusion, when it comes to treating postpartum wounds or any reproductive and menstrual concerns, the medical community discourages vaginal steaming. It’s best to consult your doctor.

    Learn more about Mothercare here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 02, 2022