A 19 year old woman pregnant with her first child came to me after having seen a doctor several times. He had done vaginal exams and hadn't found anything unusual. Among the usual things I tell pregnant moms, I recommended perineal massage each night beginning five to seven weeks before the baby is due. She called me after the first time she and her husband tried it saying, "Brenda, I have two vaginas!" I asked her to come the next day and let me check so I could see what might be confusing her.
Upon examination I caught something between my fingers. I got out my speculum and sure enough something in there prevented me from moving freely. I turned to my Tabor's Medical Dictionary and looked up hymen. I didn't really know what they look like, and to my surprise I found there are several kinds of hymens. The kind she had is described as "Buffers--hymen with two parallel openings with a thick septum between." It is hard to explain what it looked like. It is best described as a thick membrane attached to the upper and lower vaginal opening, with an opening on each side and open behind so that you could wrap your finger around it.
I had never seen or heard of this before so I called my good friend who is also the midwife who trained me. I asked her what I should do and if she had heard of this before. She told me to let it be, that in childbirth it would either tear or move to one side or the other and baby would come through.
I did just that. In labor as she was pushing and as the head started to crown I tried to get the hymen to go to one side. It did, but it was too tight for baby to pass through. I tried to get it to break with baby pressing against it, but it was just too thick, so I told her I was going to have to cut it. As soon as I did, baby slid right out. She bled from the bottom part of the hymen, which I assumed was due to pressure against it, because as soon as baby was born the bleeding stopped.
I was told by a doctor the only thing that could be done is cut it short but if it does not bother her to leave it alone. When I checked her nine days after the birth it had almost completely gone away. It still amazes me that the hymen was still there during her pregnancy, but according to Tabor's it is folklore that whether the hymen is broken or not determines whether or not a woman is a virgin, and that women can in fact become pregnant if it is still intact.
My midwife friend said it is possible that during intercourse her husband's penis went through on the one side and maybe again on the other side. After seeing how thick it was, I believe her.
-Brenda Capps, DEM
Reprinted from Midwifery Today E-News (Vol 2 Issue 2, Jan 14, 2000)
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