Dear Alice,

Have you ever heard of vaginal farts? Well, most every time I have sex, especially in certain positions, air seems to get pushed inside of me and what happens sounds suspiciously like a fart. It's embarrassing. Any way to prevent this and does this happen to other women?

Signed,
Desperate

Dear Desperate,

Yes, vaginal flatulence (also known as vaginal farts, varts, vaginal wind, or queefs) is a common experience for people with vaginas. It can be caused by different factors, such as sexual positions and pelvic floor disorders. The good news is that there are various prevention and treatment methods available depending on the cause.

One of the most common reasons for vaginal flatulence is the one you mention in your question: sex. In certain positions, the pelvic muscles may relax, allowing air to flow into the vagina. A shift into a different position can then cause the air to be expelled, resulting in vaginal flatulence. Sometimes, this expulsion of air is audible and sounds like anal flatulence, but there’s a difference because the vaginal ones are odorless. Outside of sex, individuals may experience this passing of air during physical activity or random body movements.

While many people experience vaginal flatulence, there are certain risk factors that increase its likelihood. Pelvic floor disorders, which occur in one in five people with a vagina, may increase the occurrence of vaginal flatulence. One particular pelvic floor disorder, pelvic organ prolapse (POP), involves weakening of the pelvic muscles and is most commonly caused by vaginal childbirth. A health care provider can evaluate you for pelvic organ prolapse and recommend any next steps for treatment if it’s needed.

If you believe your vaginal flatulence is likely caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles and want an option that you can do on your own, you could consider Kegel exercises. These exercises involve the intentional contracting and relaxing of your pelvic floor muscles as a way to strengthen them. The following tips may help you conduct Kegel exercises:

  • To identify your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping urination midstream. The muscles that allow that stoppage are your pelvic floor muscles.
  • A technique you might try is to imagine you’re sitting on a marble. Tightening your pelvic floor muscles as if you’re lifting the marble up may help you strengthen that area.
  • It’s good to only tighten your pelvic floor muscles and not those in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. That way you can focus on strengthening the pelvic floor specifically.
  • As you practice your Kegel exercises, try to avoid holding your breath and instead allow yourself to breathe freely.
  • It may be helpful to create a routine for yourself. You could try out three sets of Kegel exercises a day with 10 to 15 repetitions per set, but feel free to modify this to whatever fits your schedule and comfort.

While some of the reasons for vaginal flatulence may be more easily addressed, it may also be associated with more complicated pelvic floor disorders such as urinary and fecal incontinence. These disorders refer to the leakage of urine or feces through a fistula into the vagina. Fistulae are holes between two organs and could occur in the vagina due to prolonged childbirth or pelvic surgery. In the same way that urine or feces move through a fistula, air from the bladder or rectum can flow into the vagina, resulting in flatulence. Side effects of a fistula to look out for include odor, discharge, or pain. If you’re concerned about a potential fistula, it’s best to talk with your health care provider who can confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment options.

Vaginal flatulence is fairly commonplace given the varied ways it can occur, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be embarrassing. You may want to take some time to not only think about what’s causing the flatulence, but also your embarrassment. Are you feeling this way because you think it’s uncommon? Is it simply surprising in the moment? Are you afraid of what your partners might think? If the latter is true, you may want to discuss this with your partners so if it does occur, the surprise may be mitigated. Since this could be happening due to body mechanics, sharing why it happens and that it's a normal experience could bring some laughter along with the intimacy. 

Hope this helps,

Alice!

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