Maybe it has happened to you. You know, that horrible split second when you sneeze or cough and then, through no fault of your own, a little pee comes out. It can happen at other times, too, this unwanted bladder leakage. It is often the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about, or think about, or even acknowledge. But women do want it to go away, stop or at least get better. It’s time to talk about this problem in plain, direct language.
In case you have not heard, having a strong, healthy pelvic floor is an important part of overall well-being and an important part of sexual health. That goes for both men and women.
The pelvis is the area of the body between the hips. Here, you can find the bowel, rectum and the bladder in both genders, the prostate in men, and in women, the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. All of these organs are held in place by the pelvic floor muscles. These consists of a layer of muscles that span the bottom of the pelvis. They are usually firm and thick, and they are responsible for several important functions of the body. Imagine a hammock inside the pelvis holding all of these organs in place.
Not only do they support all the organs located in the pelvis, but they also work with abdominal and back muscles for spine stabilization and support. But speaking of the pelvic organ support, these muscles help control our bowel and bladder functions by contracting and allowing for the sphincter muscles that control releasing urine and feces to tighten so we do not empty, or by relaxing so that we can empty.
Ask any woman who has delivered a baby, and she will tell you how important her pelvic floor muscles were during her pregnancy and will help out with the delivery process. This helps support an expanding uterus during pregnancy and also assist in pushing that baby out into the world when it is time.
In both men and women, pelvic floor muscles are an important part of sexual function. For men, it is a very important part of the ejaculatory control, erectile function and ejaculation, which is pretty much the whole kit and kaboodle of sexual function for guys.
In women, squeezing the pelvic floor muscles heightens sensation and arousal. It can also help increase the intensity of orgasm.
What Causes Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles?
There are several factors that contribute to weak pelvic floor muscles including:
- Poor overall physical condition
- Pregnancy/childbirth (women)
- Heavy lifting
- Abdominal surgery for bowel or bladder issues
- Straining when having a bowel movement
- Enlarged prostate (men)
- Prostate cancer and treatment (men)
What Happens When They Get Weak?
Well, it is not always pretty. Weak Kegel muscles can cause incontinence of urine and stool because the pelvic organs including the bowel and bladder are not getting enough support. That means you can’t always control when you pee and poo. Something simple like sneezing or coughing can cause some to leak out which is called stress incontinence. It can also cause frequent urination, bowel movements or it can make you feel like you can’t complete a bowel movement. There can be pain or pressure in the abdomen and pelvic area, pain with intercourse and orgasm and discomfort from sitting for long periods of time.
Not pretty. Not fun. Definitely a damper on the sex life.
So, What Can Be Done About It?
If you are like the countless people out there experiencing any of the different types of incontinence, the first step in overcoming it is to see your doctor. It can be a symptom of another medical problem, such as an enlarged prostate, and it is important to find out what is causing it.
Then it is time to work on getting the pelvic floor back in shape.
It is easy in the rush of life to back burner keeping your pelvic floor in tip-top shape especially since many of the causes of a weak pelvic floor are such important life events like pregnancy, childbirth and surgery. However, it is never too late to exercise those muscles and regain what has been lost.
Kegel exercises are exercises specifically designed to focus on your pelvic floor muscles and strengthen them. This, in turn, makes for a stronger pelvic floor which helps with the urine leakage.
First, you need to learn how to identify your pelvic floor muscles. This will help you do Kegel exercises correctly. The best way to identify your pelvic floor muscles is to do it while you are urinating. Simply start the urination like you always do, and then stop mid-stream. In other words, use your muscles to stop the flow of urine. Then, release it until your bladder is empty.
The muscles you used to stop the flow of urine are your pelvic floor muscles. It’s OK if you can’t stop it completely. That is not unusual with a weak pelvic floor. But pay attention to what muscles you contracted to even try. Once you have identified these muscles, you are on your way to Kegel exercises and a healthier pelvic floor.
Now that you know where they are and how to contract them, you know how to do a Kegel exercise, and it is time to perfect your technique. This can take some time as a weak pelvic floor is like any other part of the body that needs to be built up. Start by contracting the pelvic floor muscles for five seconds and then release for five seconds. Then try doing it five times in a row for five seconds each. Gradually increase your hold time and the number of times you are doing it. For example, you can shoot for three sets of Kegel exercises of five contractions and work your way up to three sets of ten.
It is really important to focus during your Kegels so you are only working your pelvic floor muscles. Don’t clench your buttocks, use your abdominal or thigh muscles by mistake. Also, don’t hold your breath. You want to breathe freely during Kegel exercises.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that you can always build on what you have. No matter how weak your starting point is, you can make them stronger if you work at it. If you do them three times a day in a few weeks, you should notice a difference.
A good trick for being diligent about Kegel exercises is to make them part of your daily routine. A cool thing about Kegels is that no one can tell if you are doing them. You can be sitting right next to someone and tighten those muscles, and no one is any the wiser. That means it can be easy to incorporate them into your daily lifestyle. Do them in the car on the way to work while you are at each stop light. Going to a movie? What else do you have to do during the previews? You can do them in the bath, you can do them walking down a path, you can do them here or there, you can do them anywhere. Kegel exercises are probably the easiest exercise to work into your life, because you don’t have to stop what you are doing to do them.
Remember, Kegel exercises are important. They help you develop and maintain a strong pelvic floor which in turn, help you maintain good overall health as well as sexual health. This is all worth the 15 minutes a day total you will spend doing Kegels.
Ben Wa Balls
Kegel balls, also called Ben Wa Balls, have been used for a long time (some people theorize for centuries) to help strengthen pelvic floor muscles. They are weighted balls that are inserted into the vagina. Once you are comfortable doing the regular Kegel exercises, it might be time to take it up a notch and consider Ben Wa Balls.
It is important to point out that Ben Wa Balls are designed for women only. Sorry, fellas. They go in the vag, not the ass, and we don’t want anything to get lost up there, do we?
Ladies, if you are ready to use Ben Wa Balls to help whip that pelvic floor into shape, then read on.
To begin, a woman absolutely must check with her doctor before using Ben Wa Balls, especially if she has any or does any of the following:
- A current pregnancy or is recovering from childbirth
- Uses a menstrual cup
- An IUD
- Has a current active pelvic or vaginal infection
- Has existing pelvic pain
Once you have the all-clear, or if none of these apply to you, then it is time to insert them. To do this, you want to:
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap really well.
- Wash your Kegel balls in warm water and antibacterial soap, and then dry them with a clean towel.
- Break out a good water-based lubricant and apply a generous amount to the balls.
- Lie down in the spread eagle position.
- Apply lube into and around the opening of the vagina.
- Insert the first ball slowly. There are usually two in a set connected by a string. The string should be inserted as well.
- Once the first ball and string are in the vagina, gently insert the second one. The second one should push the first one higher, so take your time.
- The Kegel balls should only be pushed in as far as comfortable. Don’t force anything.
- At the end of the second ball is a removal string, and this should hang outside the vagina for removal. Sometimes it is a plain string, or sometimes it is a loop.
Ok. They are in. What’s next? How do you use these Kegel balls that are up in your vagina to your benefit? It is very simple. While lying on your back with the balls inserted, simply do your Kegel exercises as usual. Contract your muscles, hold for five seconds and then relax for five seconds. Five times in a row equals one set. Shoot for three sets a day.
When you are ready to remove them, gently pull on the string or loop, and they should slide right out. It is important that they are cleaned right after use and cleaned properly at that. Start by running them under some warm water, then add antibacterial soap and wash them off thoroughly. Then rinse them in some warm, soapy water and run them under the warm water again. Make sure all the residue is gone. Dry them with a towel and then let them air dry for a couple hours. Once they are completely dry, you can store them in their own case. Always wash them before and after each use.
Stop using them if you feel pelvic pain or discomfort, experience an unusual vaginal discharge or a foul odor. These are all signs of infection. Don’t squeeze for more than five seconds at a time or you run the risk of straining your vaginal muscles.
Which Ben Wa Balls Are Right For You?
There certainly are several choices of Ben Wa Balls. It is always good to have options, and you may find after trying different ones you have a preference. Please trust the professionals on this and don’t try to make your own Ben Wa Balls. That is a recipe for disaster. There are some things in life you don’t skimp on and Ben Wa Balls are one of them.
If you are new to Ben Wa Balls, you may want to think about starting out with a lightweight set. These pink and lavender balls are a great choice for beginners. They only weigh 4 ounces.
Plastic and silicone are good materials to start out with. Once you are comfortable with those and want to add weight, consider metal. These are made of steel and are a great choice.
You can also get fancy with glass Ben Wa Balls.
These luna beads come in a package of two sets with different weights.
There is a reason Ben Wa Balls have been around for so long helping women with their Kegel Exercises. We know they help strengthen the pelvic floor and they are easy to use. Think about taking this one easy step to getting your Kegel strength back on track.