People tend to fall into two camps – those who are baffled by the trend of vaginal rejuvenation and those who are game to try it for various reasons.
While plenty of people have been keen to roll their eyes or criticize women for caring about their personal anatomy, rejuvenation techniques are often undertaken to increase firmness, elasticity, and lubrication – in other words, for personal comfort and pleasure.
Physiological changes following childbirth or simply aging can result in everything from decreased sensation during intercourse to incontinence. Various vaginal rejuvenation procedures – from herbs to surgery – have promised to restore or retrain muscles in the vaginal canal and vaginal and pelvic floors.
Unfortunately, many techniques have been deemed both dangerous and ineffective by the U.S. FDA, which monitors any products making medical claims.
To make matters worse, a few “natural,” at-home interventions are being peddled by quacks, and these can lead to long-term damage. Rare as they were, the press had a field day with them.
In 2017, a series of articles appeared with various takes on the title “Don’t put wasps nests in your vagina.” Designed to shame women who had undertaken at-home treatment, very few provided anything but a lighthearted finger-wagging at women trying to solve a medical problem.
It appears to have originated in a fad on Etsy in which a few sellers began peddling products they claimed would tighten vaginal and pelvic muscles.
The “wasps nest” claim comes from products that included oak galls. Calling them “wasps nests” is kind of stretching it, but that doesn’t stop people from using it for a good headline.
Oak galls – or oak apples – are round growths that occur on oak trees, which can reach about 1-2 inches in diameter.
They contain tannins, which are in the polyphenol family, so you can see why people would believe they had rejuvenating features – many beauty products boast polyphenols as an active ingredient.
The galls are, in fact, formed when female wasps deposit their larvae into leaf buds. So galls are initiated, in some cases, by a certain kind of non-stinging wasp. But the oak galls being sold are just a husk of a former piece of a tree.
Regardless of what compounds they contain, a range of experts have weighed in to say they were not appropriate for vaginal use.
Who came up with this idea? Well, in 2016, Iranian gynecologists published a paper in an open-access journal on the use of oak galls for vaginal dryness.
What people don’t know is that while the journal – Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology – looks legitimate, the publisher is commonly cited as a purveyor of suspicious or predatory journals.
In fact, if you look at just one list of these possibly predatory journals – which often allow researchers to simply pay to publish their work without appropriate peer review, you’ll see that MANY of them have names that you might normally trust if you saw them cited in the news.
So, it’s more than likely that the research is bunk, although it’s very hard for a non-expert to tell. This likely led to people offering up the treatment as a natural intervention on sites with little medical oversight (like Etsy).
Practically speaking, we don’t know how many women ever bought them. But they are a bad idea.
The first article sounding the alarm actually appeared in a tabloid-style paper in the UK, The Daily Mail. These types of papers are known to use exaggeration to get clicks. They could only site two websites selling the galls.
Nevertheless, it’s possible a couple of women bought them. Not enough to warrant the mocking press coverage, but maybe enough to elicit a helpful warning that a woman should consult a medical doctor before using any new treatment.
OB/GYNs across the UK and US weighed in on the “trend” (which probably never ever reached that level) as dangerous and noted that the galls could result in abrasions and infections.
In the end, women with vaginal issues should be taken seriously and encouraged to talk to their doctor. The shame we place on women’s bodies makes them far less likely to talk openly about these issues, driving many to the Internet for help.
Just remember that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to vaginal issues and doctors are eager to help solve these problems.
There’s an entire field of medicine dedicated to women’s issues – so there’s nothing you could reveal to your gynecologist that he or she hasn’t already heard or tried to remedy.
In case we still need to say it, don’t use anything in your vagina that you haven’t talked about with your doctor.
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