We regularly get questions about the pelvic floor and what can be done to help tone it up. Pelvic floor exercising is something we should all do, but one study showed that only 2 in 10 women made time for regular kegel exercising.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles shaped like a hammock. This ‘hammock’ runs between the pubic bone in the front and the tailbone at the back. The PF muscles stretch like a thick, muscular trampoline from the tailbone to the pubic bone and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). Just like a trampoline, this ‘hammock’ can move down and up. (Ironically, bouncing up and down on an actual trampoline can be how you learn your pelvic floor is weak.)
A female-bodied person’s pelvic floor is the muscles, connective tissues and nerves that support the uterus, bladder, vagina and rectum. A male-bodied person’s pelvic floor supports the bladder and bowel, with the urethra and the anus passing through the pelvic floor muscles.
What causes the pelvic floor to weaken?
There are many reasons for a weak or damaged pelvic floor, but vaginal childbirth is probably the most common. Supporting the growing weight of a new life can overstretch the pelvic floor muscles. Vaginal birth is stressful for the hammock of muscles, so it becomes stretched and weakened.
Lower levels of oestrogen during and after menopause is another culprit. Oestrogen is essential for keeping the ligaments of your pelvic floor elastic. When these levels drop, the ligaments that hold the bowel, bladder and womb in place become thinner, weaker and less resilient.
Some forms of surgery can also have effects on the pelvic floor, as can obesity.
Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor
If you’re experiencing leakages when you laugh, cough, run or lift, it’s time to start exercising the pelvic floor. If you toot unexpectedly when you bend over, have a distinct bulge at the vaginal opening, or find that tampons dislodge or fall out, it’s time to get exercising.
Another common complaint is that vaginal penetration offers less stimulation for one or both partners. Side effects of weak pelvic floors are duller orgasmic contractions and an inability to “grip” around a penis, finger or dildo.
If you have an issue with one or more of these, chances are that your pelvic floor needs toning.
It’s time to tone up
The PC muscles can be consciously controlled and trained, much like an arm or abdominal muscles. And, good news, it can be fun! PC exercise, or Kegel exercise, is a series of controlled contractions of your PC (pubococcygeus) muscles. Before you get started, you need to identify the correct muscles.
- Vagina – insert one or two fingers into your vagina and try to squeeze them
- Urethra – imagine you are going for a pee and want to stop the flow midstream
If your pc muscles are weak, you may be unable to do one or both of these.
Kegel exercising can be done standing, sitting or lying down. Start off gently and build up your strength – it’s possible to get an after-exercise ache in your vagina, as one of our co-workers found…
Focus on your exercisers and try to relax your abdominal muscles. Remember to breathe throughout. Slowly lift and squeeze your PC muscles. Release gently and slowly. The release is an essential part of the exercise.
- Squeeze and hold firmly for 5 seconds (remember to breathe). Try for 10 repetitions, with 5-10 seconds of relaxing between each squeeze.
- When you’ve managed the firm holds, try quick, short, strong squeezes instead. Again, try for 10 reps with time to relax your PC muscles in between each.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor whenever you sneeze or laugh.
Kegel exercises can be done whenever it suits you; in the lunch queue, while doing chores, on the bus… The important thing is remembering to do them regularly. Our favourite trick is doing them during sex. Squeezing the pelvic floor rhythmically during sex helps boost arousal and chances of orgasm.
Kegel balls for exercising
Want to level up your PC exerciser? Try Kegel balls!
Exercise balls, or love balls we call them, are weights that help with Kegels. Like a gym for your vagina, love balls help work the pelvic floor faster and more effectively.
Choose a single love ball if your feel your vaginal control is ok, but you want to keep it in good shape. The Sh! Love Cherry is our favourite because of its strokable, body-friendly silicone, strong retrieval cord and mid-weight of 57g.
Choose a set of three love balls if you know your pelvic floor is weak and need toning up. Our box of three Love Cherries takes you from light to medium to weighty. We recommend starting with Cherry 1, giving yourself time to gradually build up to the heavier Cherries.
How to use love balls
Coat your chosen love ball in water-based lube before popping it into your vagina. The string stays on the outside for easy retrieval. Squeeze and release around the love ball. Squeezing against the weight helps tone up the ‘hammock’ quicker, and – bonus! – we find it’s possible to get aroused from this!
A slower but equally effective way of exercising with love balls is to pop one in and go about your day. You can go to the supermarket, or take a meeting with your boss while wearing one. You don’t need to squeeze and release when you use love balls in this way; the pelvic floor works itself when you walk and move your body. The benefit of this slower way of doing kegel exercises is that the ball with rock and roll against your G-spot when you move, so you might find you’re feeling juiced up and ready for action when you get back home!