Vaginal splint is the term used to describe the process by which a woman presses her vagina with her fingers to help ease the passage of stool from the rectum. This usually happens when a woman is constipated or experiences incomplete emptying (no bowel movement feeling even though she has had a bowel movement).
This article explains what a vaginal splint involves and describes some medical conditions in which a vaginal splint can be used to help empty the bowel.
What is a vaginal splint?
Sometimes it is difficult to have a bowel movement without straining. Over time, exertion can lead to reduced pelvic floor function and related problems, such as pelvic organ prolapse (POP). A vaginal splint is a way to help move stool out of the anal canal when natural passage is not possible.
A vaginal splint is a form of digital evacuation (“digital” refers to fingers). It involves placing a finger into the vagina and pressing it against the back wall to help relieve stool that passes out of the rectum. To do this, the woman will feel for a bulge around the back wall and gently move the stool toward the anal canal with her fingers.
While vaginal splinting is usually done with the fingers, a tampon can also be used to apply pressure to the back wall of the vagina.
There are other ways to manually overcome constipation.This includes massaging the buttocks and/or perineum (the diamond-shaped area between the anus and vagina) or have a finger extraction (inserting a finger into the anus to help remove stool).
A vaginal splint is performed by inserting a finger into the vagina and gently pressing down on the back wall in a downward motion. This helps ease stool in the rectum.
Conditions associated with vaginal splints
Women often use splints to compensate for changes in the anatomy and function of the pelvic organs.
There are a variety of conditions that may require a vaginal splint to remove stool, three of which involve pelvic organ prolapse (bulge). These include:
- cystocele: Bladder distended into vagina
- coordinated defecation: Dysfunction of pelvic floor muscles and nerves regulating intestinal clearance
- enterocele: Intestinal distention into vagina and rectum
- rectocele: The wall of the rectum swells into the vagina
A vaginal splint is often used when bowel movements are affected by pelvic organ prolapse or problems affecting the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor (called dyssynergic bowel movements).
How to Treat Constipation
what the research shows
An estimated 20% of women have persistent bowel problems.
A 2012 study published in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Twenty-nine women were evaluated using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to better understand how digital evacuation can be used to treat chronic bowel problems in women. MRI is an imaging technique that is especially good at visualizing soft tissue.
They found that 59 percent of the participants used a vaginal splint to remove stool from the rectum. Another 31% used perineal massage, while 10% used hip massage to help with bowel movements.
Based on the MRI results, the researchers also found that the participants had one or more conditions that directly interfered with bowel emptying. The reasons are broken down as follows:
- Rectocele: 86.2%
- Cystocele: 75.9%
- Intestinal cysts: 10.3%
- Uncoordinated bowel movements: 17.2%
Research shows that most women with chronic bowel problems use vaginal splints as their primary form of digital evacuation.
How digital decompression can be used to relieve constipation
A vaginal splint is a procedure in which a finger is inserted into the vagina to manually manipulate stool out of the rectum. This is done by feeling the bulge at the back of the vagina and pressing down gently to help ease the passage of stool out of the body.
Vaginal splints can be used to relieve occasional constipation, but are more commonly used in women with pelvic organ prolapse or muscle and nerve dysfunction to help regulate bowel movements.
If you need to use your fingers to help with bowel movements, be sure to bring this to your healthcare provider’s attention. They can help determine the underlying cause and discuss which treatment option is best for you. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from getting the relief you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is constipation more common in women?
Yes. Women are three times more likely to suffer from constipation than men. Women are at greater risk if they are older, lead an inactive lifestyle, consume fewer calories than recommended, and eat a low-fiber diet.
What is digital subtraction?
Digital de-impactation involves manually removing stool from the anus. It is usually done with an anal douche to help ease the passage of stool. Digital deimpactation can cause problems such as rectal bleeding and hemorrhoids, so if your constipation is severe enough to require digital deimpactation, talk to your doctor as there may be a better solution.
Can you pass stool from your vagina?
If you have a rectovaginal fistula, an abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina, stool is likely to leak out of the vagina. You may also notice gas, mucus, and an unpleasant odor. Any infection will require treatment, and surgery may be required to close the opening.