Vaginal wind: The 'embarrassing' condition no one wants to talk about

Photo: After two birth, Emma Muskett is prone to vaginal flatulence. Supplied
Photo: After two birth, Emma Muskett is prone to vaginal flatulence. Supplied 

We need to talk about queefing - otherwise known as the fanny fart.

It's a topic that might been overlooked at your mother's group.

The medical term for the condition is vaginal flatulence and studies show that it is underreported, common and completely normal.

Many women hear their vaginas contributing in random situations. For some of us a little air escapes during our Saturday morning yoga class and we're too scared to attempt a three-legged downward dog ever again.

Others become wary of simply moving from sitting to standing at a coffee date, for fear of setting free what sounds remarkably like an actual fart and being judged by one and all.

Technically, a chattering vulva occurs when the integrity of vaginal wall tissue has been compromised – usually after a superstar feat such as the vaginal birth of a baby or two.

The valvelike structure at the entrance to the vagina allows air to freely venture in while the woman is at rest, which seems fine, right? But here's the catch.

That same gateway closes with movement, trapping air inside the vaginal canal. With activity, the abdominal and pelvic pressures increase, and air is expelled through the closed entryway, much like air escaping through a musical wind instrument. Voilà! Your vagina now not only produces babies, it is also an in-built French horn which toots whenever it feels the need.

Mums with a prolapse more prone

For pregnant mum-of-two Emma Muskett, this pelvic floor situation sounds all too familiar. 

Advertisement

After two uncomplicated natural births, her vaginal back wall prolapsed and she has been prone to vaginal flatulence. 

For Emma, they are most obvious during everyday movement – so much so that she has employed some little tricks to try and evade awkward situations where friends and strangers might think she's passing wind.

"I try and do a movement, kind of like rock in my chair before getting up, to maybe get it out before standing. This sometimes works!"

Fortunately, Emma hasn't let the queefing impact her quality of life. She still ventures out despite its prominent occurrence in her everyday routines and uses some simple techniques to try and keep the flatulence at bay.

Photo: Illustration by Dr Sarika Gupta. Supplied.

Photo: Illustration by Dr Sarika Gupta. Supplied.

According to Dr Sarika Gupta, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fellow at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, younger women of reproductive age and slimmer women tend to be more susceptible to a vaginal wind because pelvic floor muscle strength is lower in this group overall.

"This is likely due to these younger women believing they have 'good pelvic floors' and not routinely engaging in pelvic floor strengthening exercises, particularly after childbirth," she said.

Some 75 per cent of women undergo perineal tissue damage during childbirth, which usually requires getting stitched back up to keep everything in. Afterward, pelvic floor exercises need to become habitual in order to repair the damage and minimise queefing.

Women who give birth to a big baby, have an instrumental delivery or deliver multiples are also at higher risk of developing a prolapse – where part or all of the vagina heads south.

Women who have a prolapse are also more likely to experience vaginal wind, as the tissues in that area are weakened with such an injury.

Unfortunately, not every woman has the confidence that Emma has - or is willing to talk about vaginal flatulence openly. 

Most studies indicate that queefing causes 'distress' and can lead to a significant decrease in quality of life.

Dr Gupta also says that the majority of women do not seek medical help for the condition, due to 'embarrassment or shame'. Sadly, this only increases the stigma and isolation.  

Treatment for vaginal flatulence 

So, what can we do about it?

Targeted physiotherapy is most often the first line of management for tackling vaginal wind.

This sort of physio improves the integrity of the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor, which then translates into narrowing of the entrance, thus preventing that valve from forming and limiting air from being trapped.

Failing this, ladies, we also have the option of placing an object in the vagina such as a tampon or pessary, like a little piece of hidden treasure. This would fill up the vault space and prevent air from entering and getting trapped. Our in-built wind instrument would sing no more.

Thank goodness there are ways and means we can tackle this problem. And the first step? Let's talk about it.

We don't have to continue doing yoga in our living rooms forever, girls! It might take some courage to address, but the upside will be downward dogs and shoulder stands with our vaginas remaining forever silent, and the confidence to leave the house for normal tasks restored.

Nobody should be afraid of bending down in the supermarket aisle. And the best thing about it: you can begin right now. In and up, ladies!