Rectovaginal fistula

A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal tunnel-like pathway that forms between the rectum and the vagina. Contents from the rectum may leak through the fistula into the vagina and then out of the body.

Causes of rectovaginal fistulas

Most often a rectovaginal fistula is caused by complications during child birth. If the perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) tears or must be cut, it may become infected and lead to a rectovaginal fistula.

Other contributing causes may include infections, Crohn’s disease, surgical procedures, or radiation treatments.


The most specific symptom of a rectovaginal fistula is the leakage of digestive gas or stool from the vagina.  

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain and irritation in your perineum
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Discolored, smelly vaginal discharge
  • Repeated vaginal infections
  • Repeated urinary tract infections
  • Trouble controlling bowel movements


The most common way a rectovaginal fistula is diagnosed is with a physician physically examining the area. Your doctor may want to order additional tests to tailor treatment for your condition.


Based on your condition, your surgeon will provide you with the best options for proceeding.

Last reviewed: 
August 2018

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