Vaginal flatulence, queefing, or farting from your vagina. These are all the same thing and can take you by surprise when you're moving through a yoga class. So what is vaginal flatulence? Is it actually gas like what passes through your rectum?
Short answer: vaginal flatulence is when air that is trapped in the vagina is released. It is not created by digestion but rather by air that gets trapped as we move through space.
So why does it happen?? Air regularly moves in and out of the vaginal canal. It is normally silent when the balance between vaginal pressure, abdominal pressure, and pelvic floor closure is balanced. However, air can get trapped in the canal as a result of poor pressure management and/or changes in the vaginal tissues.
Lubrication and Moisture
The vaginal tissues are androgen-receptive aka hormonally influenced tissues. As folks with vaginas age, the lubrication at the vaginal opening decreases. However, this lubrication can also change following the birth of a baby, following radiation, as a result of medication, and hormonal changes related to thyroid dysfunction. Long story short, this is not an ‘aging problem’. It can happen at any age! This decrease in moisture results in decreased closure at the vaginal opening. Air can then escape and vibrate the tissues, making an audible sound akin to a fart. Vaginal moisturizers and hormonal creams can help to restore moisture to the vagina.
What can you do to help it? Vaginal moisturizers are over the counter whereas hormonal creams are prescribed by a medical professional.
The Diaphragm Paradox
The pelvic floor musculature and the thoracic diaphragm move ideally move in harmony. When we inhale, the pelvic floor and diaphragm descend. On exhalation, they lift together. However, this relationship can change and the diaphragms can begin to move in opposition to one another. So, as the pelvic floor lifts, the thoracic diaphragm drops. As a result, the pelvic floor pulls more air into the vagina. This air becomes trapped and on the next phase of the breathing cycle when the pelvic floor drops, that additional air is pushed out and can result in a vaginal fart.
What can you do to help it? Working on coordinating your breathing so that as you inhale, you are able to feel the pelvic floor drop and as you exhale, feel the pelvic floor lift is the first step to improving coordination and regulating pressure changes. Remember that pelvic floor does not have a joint like your elbow or knee and it can be challenging to discern how it is moving. If you aren’t sure, try the following exercise:
Pelvic Floor Awareness Exercise:
1. Take your hands and place them on the SIT bones (literally the bones you sit on) with the fingers facing inward.
2. Create a small cup with your hand so that your fingers sink in onto the tissue at the inside of your SIT bone. This is your pelvic floor!
3. As you inhale through the nose, try to focus your breath into the sides and back of your rib cage, creating a 360 degree expansion.
4. Bring your awareness to your fingertips. Can you drop your breath into your fingertips, feeling the tissue lower toward the seat?
5. As you exhale, grow tall through the crown of the head like you are being pulled up on a string or you are trying to get tall on a growth chart. Keep the ribs open as you exhale. No need to squeeze the belly or pelvic floor, it will contract on its own. Do you feel the tissue at your fingertips lift up and away from your seat?
I always refer to this exercise as similar to an eye test where the optometrist asks you to read letters and gradually makes them sharper. The more you do this exercise, the sharper, the clearer the sensation of the pelvic floor will become.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Activity
The pelvic floor musculature has a resting tension. This tension is present to modulate pressure and airflow, support the spine, and support the pelvic organs (uterus, rectum, bladder). Changes in resting tension - meaning pelvic floor activity is too high or too low - can lead to air getting trapped and noisily leaving the vagina.
In the case of the overactive pelvic floor, when the tissues are stretched in a position such as downward dog or happy baby, air enters the vaginal canal. Upon moving out of the pose where the pelvic floor returns back to its overactive state, it can forcefully and audibly push the air out of the vagina.
With an underactive or lax pelvic floor (laxity can occur due to childbirth, surgery, hormonal changes, and medication), more air can flow in and out of the vaginal canal.
What can you do to help it?
1. Slow down your movement and then your attention inward. Focus on breathing into your rib cage and growing long through the crown of your head in postures to avoid creating downward pressure on the pelvic floor. Take some extra time as your move through poses such as downward dog to plank and ensure that you exhale through the length of the movement. Working on your postural awareness will help to reduce pressure at the pelvic floor as well as align the two diaphragms.
2. Use blocks! Blocks are not crutches, they do not mean you are taking the easy way out. They are ensuring that you meet your body where it is at so you get the most out of yoga poses. Use 1 block the thinnest way between the thighs in symmetrical postures such as mountain pose, downward dog, plank, and table top to improve the activation of your pelvic floor and improve the closure at the vaginal opening. Use blocks under the hands for forward fold, twisted crescent, and triangle to avoid creating downward pressure into pelvic floor. They help to keep the spine long and the scapular musculature engaged.
‘But wait! What if I only experience this during sex??’ With vaginal penetration, especially in postures where the pelvis is above the head, air can get trapped in the vagina as the pelvic muscles lift.
What can you do to help it?
1. Slow down the depth and speed of thrusting.
2. Experiment with different postures and try ones laying on the side or where the pelvis is level with the head.
3. Use supportive props. Try a sex pillow to provide support to the body to change the position of the pelvis and provide you with support to try new postures.
Vaginal flatulence/farts/queefing can be embarrassing. I get it, the majority of the population’s humor has not evolved beyond fart jokes. If you aren’t going to yoga class or are hesitant to engage in movement or sex because of vaginal flatulence, talk to a pelvic PT. They can give you guidance on what to work on so that you can confidently move through your yoga class without your vagina being disruptive. And know this too y’all - talking about vaginal health is hard, there are so many factors that lead us to have our voices silenced. Know that you are not alone and it’s when we talk about these hard things that it helps to amplify the voices of others as well as help us move forward to close the gaps in health equity. Y’all are rockstars. ❤️
To learn more about ways to help your pelvic floor, contact me at Activcore Princeton.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.