What the Queef?

I can’t believe I’m about to write this post, but the Universe has sent me three separate inquiries in the last month, so I’m taking it as a sign.

A queef is the very scientific term for the fart-like noise your vagina makes as it allows air out of your body.

I’m so glad that sentence is over.

Based on the inquiries, it appears that people know what a queef is, they just don’t know why a queef is. How’d the air get in there in the first place?

Because I decided not to include any stick-figures with this post, you’ll have to use your imagination. So imagine a hypodermic needle. Or, wait. That’s a safe enough image.

So look at this hypodermic needle. At the end of the needle is a tiny hole. That tiny hole is your vagina. (You’re welcome.)

To pull fluid (or air, in this case) into the syringe, the plunger must move away from the needle, creating a sucking action. The same thing happens in the body, only this sucking action comes from the displacement of your pelvic and abdominal contents — your organs — toward your diaphragm.

This vacuum-like action can occur in various situations, like during a yoga class or other, um, moments. Inversions, ranging from a head stand to any time your hips are elevated even the slightest bit above the rib cage (like when you’re, uh, on your elbows and knees) are notorious for the organ shift. This mechanism is also exacerbated if you’re sucking your stomach in at the same time. Because many people confuse abdominal activation with “sucking it in”, they’re often coupling this sucking habit with the effect of gravity when lying on their back and backwards tilting their pelvis. In this case, even the smallest posterior tilt can get the air-a-flowin’ toward your head.

The next question would be is this organ movement normal? The answer is, while organ displacement is certainly common in various activity that require inversions (like in exercise class) the displacement is a good indicator that your core muscles are not stabilizing your abdominal contents very well. The human body should be able to move around in all sorts of positions without sloshing the organs, but this organ-stillness requires appropriate strength. When the pelvis and ribcage are neutral to each other, the core muscles should respond correctly to the change in loads and offer support to these important body parts. If not aligned properly, the muscles don’t respond to the new position and the core becomes a static container with moving content.

Maybe you’re also interested in the actual fart itself. Why is it that you can hold your gas in during a sensitive moment in, say a job interview, but not a stop a queef? It’s simply because the sphincter muscle of the rectum can close all the way but the vaginal sphincter does not. There’s always a bit of space there. Like storage. The good news is, you’re probably not inverting or lying on your back sucking in your stomach during a job interview.

If you’re queefing a lot to the point that yoga or pilates class is uncomfortable (not to mention embarrassing), you need to check in with your sucking your stomach in habits and really watch your rib displacement. If you’re a rib thruster (read this) when you’re standing, your likely thrusting upside down as well. Try a RIBSDOWNward Dog* and keep your junk silent during class.

An all-time career high with this one, don’t you think?

I dedicate this post to my favorite poet, Friday Lubina.

*Instead of reaching your ribcage toward the mat, which shears the spine and reduces the flexion of the shoulder, keep the front of your ribcage in the same plane as the front of the pelvis. It will be a whole new world!

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41 thoughts on “What the Queef?

  1. Love your sense of humor, plus your depth of knowledge in all things Katy! LOL! It’s stuff like this that keeps me reading & sharing your material 🙂

  2. Yes, thanks for taking this sensitive topic and giving it the attention it deserves. The kind of thing everybody wants to know but no one wants to ask. You are like the Dr. Ruth of alignment!

  3. OMG, I thank you so much Katy.

    I have a problem with this to the point it hurts 🙁 And when does it happen?? I am very prone to mastitis/blocked ducts and one of the best ways to clear it is feeding on hands and knees with your boobs dangling down..but the side effects are not ..good.

    I thought I wasn’t a rib thruster and had kicked the stomach kicking in habit..but will check again..as for the core…its a work in progress..

  4. She does not have huge balls for tackling this one… She has a HUGE hypodermic needle! LOL! Great post, Katy! I’m off to write yet another FB post about the difference between “sucking it in” and true TvA activation. Blessings on your work!

  5. Thank you for this, and I mean that in every possible way. My day needed to be turned around, and you did it. I applaud you for your bravery, and your eloquence in tackling this difficult topic.

  6. I never had this problem before I had kids and now I have it only during yoga, to the point I’m afraid to go to a yoga class (oddly, some days it isn’t a problem at all and some days it happens all the time, never know which day it will be). I knew it probably had something to do with my diastasis (weak core) or with my 3rd degree tear and the general stretching down there. From your post, it seems it has most to do with my diastasis and breathing, but would the tearing have an affect as well? Are they inter-related?

  7. Love love love this article!! I think it’s also a great time to mention this is a common result post baby delivery. I work with many pregnant women who fear it won’t go away after they have had a baby due to the displacement of organs while carrying. It can and does change!! Thanks Katy for your honest and brave writing!!

  8. When I first read your email announcing the new post, I thought you were going to talk about burping. Then I read it again and started laughing. Thanks for shedding light on, um, suddenly that phrase doesn’t quite work. Thanks for explaining the results of hanging upside down from the rings, as a kid, on the playground. I’ll stop now 🙂 “Dr. Ruth of alignment” indeed!!

  9. You are too funny! What a delight.

    I remember having a conversation with my mom about this. She was stunned to hear that what had happened to her was not unusual, although I doubt she ever recovered from the mortification.

    I am delighted that you are talking about body stuff. Folks, it’s normal. I find that I often reassure my clients about things their bodies do. We sure can be uptight. It is a lovely piece of machinery and we can’t always control what it does. Embrace it and laugh.

    Thanks Katie!

  10. FANTASTIC! I cannot express how proud I am to have my name associated with this topic. I haven’t “Googled” myself in awhile, maybe this is a good time to give it a whirl.

    I couldn’t wait to read the post, shared the title with John, laughed a little, learned a lot, laughed a bit more and then reached the end, recognized a name and made my husband join me on the sofa to see what I’d seen. Just so you know, I can queef on command, sister. If you’re ever giving a discussion about this topic and a fraction of your audience doesn’t “get it”, I can be your translator (like the person who does ASL beside the speaker – only DIFFERENT). 🙂

    Love you.

  11. I was on a shock jock radio show once, and the host asked whether kegels would make one more or less likely to queef. Way less! Speaking from my personal experience, certain (ahem) positions that were not possible after baby on account of excessive, over the top, I-can’t-believe-this-much-air-is-even-possible queefing became possible again after kegels. Hooray!

    I agree with other commenters, Katy, kudos for fearlessly saying the unspeakable. Seriously, this stuff matters to women!!! and by posting this you’ve made a whole lot of women feel less alone.

  12. I laughed so hard, I queefed! I thought it was just me, when after or during an intimate moment with my partner, I would queef and be embarrassed – Now I know…I love the explanation of not being able to close your vagina completely and also the hypodermic needle imagery! You are hilarious. Lv, Chris xoxoxo

  13. All of you are so much fun! Grew up with several younger sisters and very much appreciate Exposé with humor! 🙂

    ”I heard from a man named Leaf (the lucky)

    His wife was unlucky with Queef

    So he would oft more hug
    and offer to plug

    While transforming to happy less grief.” WD 🙂

    Katy you rock! 🙂

  14. OMG, you mean it’s not just me?! Thank you so much for this post, Katy!! (sends big hugs) Since having twins with an assisted vaginal delivery,I get this sometimes when walking. Off to check my rib thrust…

  15. OMG!!! Best post ever! I LOVE that you have to confidence to talk about this! It happens for goodness sakes, whether we want to admit it or not!!!! It does so why not find out why it does happen. Thank you for this eloquent and lovely written post!

  16. Katy, you addressed this SOOO much better than they did on Dr. Oz the other day (I’ve been reading your blog so much I was yelling at the TV!). I was also very interested in your post about the “regular” fart – the part about the tight pelvic floor. Anytime you want to explain why I often explosively (projectile!) burp when I stretch my upper chest, I’m all ears 🙂 My doctor looked at me like I was nuts when I asked him.

  17. Good to know, I wish I had known this a few months ago when I varted 3 times during a yoga class…that I was teaching……to an all male group. It could have gone from a humiliating moment to an educational one?

  18. Thank you! I’ve been keeping this question on my mental list of “What to post on FB if KB solicits questions for another “in a sentence” blog post. Thanks to the other KB readers for pestering her.

    I’ve also always assumed this was because of weak pelvic floors. I’ve scoured the Internet and never found any helpful information (Can you believe Yoga Journal has never published an article on this???).

    It makes a bazillion times better sense to focus on pelvic and rib alignment, rather than omg-panic-kegel-squeezes in the middle of a shoulder stand as the air intake rapidly commences. In fact, I think this has only ever happened to me in partial or sloppy shoulder stands when I’m just throwing myself up and taking advantage of my flexibility and not using my core too much; shoulder stands have a much more stable “base” on the floor so it’s easier for me to be sloppy. I have much better luck in headstands, etc. when I have no choice but to stack my pelvis and ribs and engage my core.

    Thanks, Katy!!!

  19. Talk about awkward posts, I just posted one on How to Use an Asian Bathroom. Some subjects need to be discussed even though it makes us all (including the author) a bit uncomfortable.

    I really appreciated this and hope you continue to talk about stuff the rest of us are afraid to ask. Thank you.

  20. While not lying down during a job interview, my bet is that the stomach sucking habit happens even while sitting during said interview. The question is, are we down on elbows and knees during said interview, hoping for the best…figuratively speaking of course. Or do we get to that place only after we land the job? Figuratively speaking of course.

  21. RE: Nicoles’ yoga journal findings. I subscribe to YJ to keep me motivated and for ideas, but often find myself wondering where they are coming from…(not only on their vart recommendation) but more importantly on the many mistakes which are promoted regarding aligment. The most obscene mistake was a few months…there was an article on breath work and pranyama (for adults and kids), and the graphic shownon the lead page of the article was an adult female profile of the head and neck, with upper thoracid in severe hyperkyphosis complete with a severely compressed cervical spine and a wicked chin jut. Kinda like what you might observe in Forever 21. Sheesh.

  22. So I just found your site through a personal trainer my midwife recommended because I’ve got a bit of a prolapse going on. And now that I’m pregnant with #3, I queef through my prenatal yoga classes. Luckily the floor is really creaky. I was hoping for a quick fix, but at least this fix is the same for pretty much everything else I’ve got going on. I’m starting to think my prolapse is a blessing in disguise! Perhaps if I develop good habits now, I won’t feel this old when I’m actually old.

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