Weakness of the pelvic floor is completely normal as we age and sometimes younger bodies can experience it too. Certain types of exercise can contribute to a compromised pelvic floor. Ballet, starjumps and trampolining for example, where the feet land hard on the floor at the same time (as opposed to simultaneously as in skipping) and childbirth, constipation, weightlifting and ageing can all wreak their own special havoc.
WHAT YOUR PELVIC FLOOR DOES
It's super important to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong because they support the bladder, bowel and uterus. They help maintain bladder and bowel control and play an important role in sexual sensation and function. Without a strong pelvic floor, we can become incontinent (especially when we sneeze or cough).
The worst effects of poor pelvic muscle contraction are incontinence (urinal and/or fecal), prolapse and loss of sexual sensation or weakened orgasm. At Passionfruit, we talk to many customers who have experienced a prolapse and the experience of it can be devastating.
Your pelvic floor muscles sit underneath your pelvic organs and basically hold them up. If the supporting tissues are torn or stretched, and if your pelvic floor muscles are weak, then your pelvic organs might not be held in their right place and they may bulge or sag down into the vagina. Yes that's right, your organs can fall out of your vagina! A rectal prolapse is when part of the rectum protrudes from the anus.
Recently a class action against Johnson and Johnson was successful after the pelvic mesh implants they produced to 'hold up' the vaginal walls were found to be causing incredible pain, infection and organ and nerve damage among the many women who had it inserted.
Without fearmongering, we do attempt to educate all our customers on the benefits of pelvic floor health so that we can all enjoy clean undies and great orgasms for the rest of our lives.
What we tend to find is that most of our customers have never even heard of a prolapse! Most come to us because of some level of incontinence that they're trying to fix. That's where kegel balls come in.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES
We've all heard of tightening the muscles at the traffic lights and that's all well and good, but it's not particularly effective because a) you forget and b) you're not doing it right and c) you're not targeting the involuntary muscles. If you have a vagina, then kegel balls to the rescue!! Without a vagina, you can start a pelvic floor practice with or without aids.
The best kegel balls have an internal ball that bounces around inside the external ball. You should be able to shake them to hear and feel the inner ball. When the ball(s) are inside the vaginal canal, you're meant to be active in order to get that inner ball jiggling around. The bouncing of the kegel balls off the vaginal wall causes involuntary contractions, like when someone punches your arm and you involuntarily tense. Combined with the voluntary muscle action of holding the ball(s) in, you are giving your pelvic floor muscles a good workout.
Most kegel balls come as a series of weights so that you build up slowly to the heaviest ball. The Lelo Luna Beads for example, have 2 x 28g beads and 2 x 37 gram beads. This gives you five different weight options - 1 = 28g, 1 = 37g, 2 = 56g, 2 = 65g and 2 = 74g. Start with the single 28gram bead and then interchange them within the harness until you are holding 74g using the two heaviest balls.
You can leave them in for as long as is comfortable or when you can feel them sliding out of their own accord. I hang mine in the shower to remind me to put them in a couple of times a week. I leave them in while I run around doing my morning things and then give them a clean and put them back in the shower for next time.
We get a lot of queries about jade eggs, of which I am skeptical. Firstly, having a solid weight in your vagina doesn't give the involuntary muscles a workout. Secondly, a heavy weight can pull more heavily on an already compromised set of muscles and could in fact make them weaker still. With a solid weight, you need to be pulling your muscles up constantly which doesn't achieve much. It's like flexing your arm muscle up and leaving it there. You need the counter movement of the arm coming down in order to build muscle (that's why beads with an inner bead moving around isn't just a dead weight). Strengthening muscle requires tensing and relaxing - not just tensing.
I also have deep concerns for the sourcing of semi-precious stone - much of it is mined using child labour and is unsustainable. Finally, most stone is porous and can therefore harbour bacteria that can lead to infection. There are of course those who swear by jade and stone dildos and eggs and that's their personal decision. My research has led to a decision not to recommend them. If you do use them, cover them with condoms.
AN OVER-WORKED (HYPERTONIC) PELVIC FLOOR
Yes that's also a thing! For some reason, some of us have a too-tight pelvic floor and that can lead to all sorts of other problems! Whether it be from some type of repeated exercise (pilates/horse riding perhaps)? or sexual trauma where the vulva and vagina pull away from stimulus, an over-worked pelvic floor can lead to vaginismus, vulvodynia and general sexual pain. Don't do kegel exercises if your muscles are already tight. It's better to do conscious relaxing of the pelvic floor (sitting with your legs crossed and breathing) and using dilators to help relax and open. Pelvic floor physiotherapists work with overworked and weakend pelvic floors and can be an essential part of long-term healing. We have some we personally recommend here.
THE BENEFITS OF KEGEL BALLS
- Sneezing and coughing and jumping without wetting your pants
- Avoiding a prolapse
- Much stronger orgasms. Strength of contraction = intensity
- Better lubrication - having the balls inside you makes you create your own natural lubrication (use only a small amount of water based lubricant if you need to and regulate as you go)
- Greater awareness of your sexual organs and a more intimate connection to your sexual self
- Lelo Luna Beads - ABS plastic beads slung in a silicone harness - easy loop pull for extraction and great to hang in the shower. The balls are quite large and suit those who's pelvic floor is quite weak (the bigger the ball the easier they are to hold in) - weight up to 74g with the option of 5 weight variations
- Yany Beads - a bit smaller in size than the Lelo - bodysafe metal balls within a silicone harness - our most popular - weight up to 80g with the option of 5 weight variations
- Svakom Nova - all silicone - no seams - 3 weight options as opposed to 5 - less movement inside the ball - weight up to 95g
- Elvie - app controlled - reminds you when to do your exercises - tracks your pelvic strength and fitness - gives real time feedback as to how well you're doing - super fun
Whether you learn how to do kegel exercises with the help of a physio and build it in to your fitness regime or use kegel balls or prostate stimulators to give you a hand, get on to it today and enjoy better health AND SEX for evermore :)
You can read our blog on painful sex here.
You can contact the Continence Foundation here.
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