Q. I have a really embarrassing question. My baby was born six months ago, and now it seems like every time we make love, my vagina makes these weird farting sounds. It feels like my husband is pushing air into my vagina with his penis or something. At times, it can be really painful too! Why does this happen? Is there any way to make it stop?
A. "If it feels like your husband is pushing air into your vagina, then that's probably what is happening," says Constance Bohon, MD, an ob-gyn in private practice in Washington, D.C.
The vagina is a wonderfully elastic tube with pleated walls that can stretch to accommodate a baby coming into the world. The muscles of the vaginal wall are connected to strong sheaths of tissue running through the pelvic floor, a sort of hammock for your pelvic organs. As you may have already guessed, childbirth can temporarily alter the size and shape of this whole area; labor and delivery may damage its nerves and stretch and weaken its muscles. How much any woman's vagina changes during delivery will, of course, depend on all sorts of things, like how long she pushed in labor, the size of her baby, and her own individual muscle and tissue genetics.
In any case, "it's safe to assume that your vagina is still larger than it was before your pregnancy," says Dr. Bohon. Your new proportions are making it easier for air to become trapped inside there during intercourse. The noise you hear is likely the release of that air.
In time, your vagina will resume its original shape and size, or close to it. This will happen faster if you tone up vaginal walls through exercise, just as you do other muscles in your body. "Doing Kegel exercises -- contracting and releasing the same muscles you use to control your urine flow -- will help improve your vaginal tone and decrease those sounds," Dr. Bohon predicts.
Pain during intercourse may be more of a problem. It might be related to the position of your uterus and cervix, which probably dropped down slightly while you were pushing, so that your husband now hits it with his penis during penetration. Get creative with lovemaking positions and see if you can find a more comfortable fit. If the pain persists or is severe, however, see your healthcare provider for an examination, "especially if you think you're passing intestinal gas through your vagina," notes Dr. Bohon. That could be an indication that you're suffering from recto-vaginal fistula, a wound in the tissue between the rectum and the vaginal wall that could account for the leakage of gas into your vagina.
Holly Robinson is a writer living outside of Boston.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, December 2005.