Pelvic steaming, commonly known as vaginal steaming, is growing in popularity. Some doulas are certified steam practitioners and use it immediately in the first 10 days postpartum as well as for labor preparation and during active labor. They bring the supplies to their clients or the clients prepare ahead of time by purchasing a steam sauna and herbs.
Although most of the birthing community is just getting familiar with steaming within recent years, it is not a new practice. Emerging research shows that steaming is an ancient remedy that has been used for thousands of years everywhere around the world. There are even records of steaming in old Italian, English and French books.
Steam practitioners use steaming for labor preparation (once full term), during active labor and for postpartum recovery. Labor steaming has shown beneficial to help prevent perineal tearing, help labor progress and manage pain. In the immediate postpartum it can be used in the case of retained placenta or inability to expel urine or bowels and to help reduce swelling (especially in the case someone was catheterized).
So far there have been two studies done where steaming was used in the first 10 days postpartum. In both studies there was a group that steamed compared to a control group that did not steam. The studies showed that the steam group had lower blood pressure (reduced risk of eclampsia), faster uterine involution, faster return of the vulva and vagina back to normal, alleviation of suture discomforts, higher weight loss, a quicker end to lochia bleeding (reducing risk of infection), better bowel regularity and hemorrhoid reduction.
Training is required in order to steam in the first 10 days postpartum as there are times that steaming is contraindicated, there are different herbs required depending on the client situation and there are times that steaming is contraindicated entirely. Furthermore, steaming may be safe on one day and then contraindicated the next. Without proper training in steam safety, it is not advised. Doulas can work with a trained steam practitioner as part of their team or get trained themselves to be able to offer steaming during this time. However, please note that becoming a steam practitioner is not a weekend certification. It is a therapy all of its own that requires several months or years of training.
During a steam session water will be brewed like tea and placed inside a wooden stool. Your client will sit on a stool with an opening in the seat for at least 10 minutes. Postpartum steaming is done for one to three months for full postpartum recovery. It can also be used in cases of early or late menstrual return, pain at returning to sex, prolapse and scar tissue. Every doula should have a steam practitioner to refer to or get trained themselves.
1) Vaginal Steam World Map (steamychick.com)
2) Fourth Trimester Vaginal Steam Study (fourthtrimestervaginalsteamstudy.com)
3) Validation of the Effect of An Ayurvedic Therapeutic Procedure, Dashmoolkwath&Dhoopan – Fumigation with Medicinal Herbs During First Week of Puerperium: An Open Clinical Trial (http://www.iamj.in/posts/2017/images/upload/3260_3265.pdf)