Vaginal Splinting and Bowel Movements

Vaginal splinting is the term used to describe a procedure in which a woman uses her fingers to press on the vagina as a way to try to evacuate stool during the process of a bowel movement.

Typically, this is done in response to constipation and a sense of incomplete evacuation.

A woman with smartphone sitting on the toilet
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Vaginal splinting is considered a form of digital evacuation. Related behaviors include putting a finger into the rectum to remove stool, or massaging the buttocks or perineum.

The prevalence of vaginal splinting is unknown. However, it is estimated that approximately 20% of women experience some sort of dysfunction in the process of defecation.

This dysfunction can lead to difficulties with the full evacuation of the rectum during a bowel movement. Women resort to splinting as a way to compensate for the changes in the anatomy and function of their rectal anatomy.

Health Conditions Associated With Vaginal Splinting

There are various health conditions that increase the risk of vaginal splinting. These include:

  • Cystocele: bulging of the bladder into the vagina
  • Dyssynergic defecation: dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Enterocele: bulging of the small bowel into the vagina and the rectum
  • Rectocele: bulging of the wall of the rectum into the vagina

The Splinting Study

The research on vaginal splinting is extremely limited. I was able to find one intriguing study where twenty-nine women agreed to participate in a study which involved the use of a dynamic MRI.

The study was designed to get a glimpse into what happens when a woman engages in digital evacuation behaviors. For the sake of science, these brave women agreed to use their typical splinting behavior while undergoing an MRI.

The researchers were trying to assess what the problems were with the pelvic anatomy of the women, and what effect the splinting behavior had on these identified problems.

The results indicated that just under 60% used vaginal splinting, while a little under one-third used the area of the perineum, and the remaining 10% manipulated the buttocks area.

With the exception of one participant, the splinting behavior was successful in either partially or fully correcting the underlying anatomical defect.

The researchers do not know for sure how each woman was able to come up with such a successful resolution to the problem but surmise that trial and error led to an eventual solution that was then continued to be used.

The researchers hope that further research using dynamic MRIs may lead to a better understanding of the need for splinting, as well as improved surgical options.

Should You Tell Your Healthcare Provider?

If you need to use your fingers in order to facilitate stool emptying, it is important that you bring this to your healthcare provider's attention. Your medical professional will attempt to identify what the underlying dysfunction is and then discuss what course of treatment will be best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you relieve constipation by pushing your fingers into your vagina?

    You may be able to loosen stool by inserting a finger into the vagina and pressing on the wall between the vagina and the rectum in a way that eases stool out of your anus. The technique is used fairly commonly and successfully, especially among women who have pelvic floor dysfunction. However, it depends on what is causing your constipation. If you have chronic problems passing stool, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • Is constipation more common in women?

    Yes. Women are three times more likely than men to have bouts of constipation. Women have an even greater risk if they’re older adults, lead an inactive lifestyle, consume fewer calories than recommended, and eat a low-fiber diet.

  • Can you pass stool out of the vagina?

    If you have a rectovaginal fistula, an abnormal opening between the rectum and the vagina, yes, stool might leak out of your vagina. You might notice gas, mucus, and an unpleasant odor in addition to the stool. Any infection needs to be treated and surgery may be needed to close the opening.

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