This is one of those subjects that moms rarely discuss, but we should. Regaining the strength of your pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and birth can mean the difference between urine-soaked and dry underwear. It also can mean the difference between a mediocre and an intergalactic sex life.
As you’ve already guessed, this is a “NSFD” column (that’s “Not Safe for Dad”). As in my dad. It’s not R-rated, but if reading about body parts that typically are hidden under clothing makes you squeamish, stop reading now.
For those of you still reading, moms (and spouses of moms who want to support them), we’re talking about how to transform those pelvic floor muscles into bands of steel.
Because, for a lot of women, pregnancy and childbirth cause these muscles to sink and sag. They supported the weight of a baby for a couple months, and then had to stretch radically to release that bundle of baby. For some of us, this trauma occurred more than once.
The result? Most of us have some incontinence just after birthing. Sometimes, it can last longer than a few weeks — for months, or even years. In most cases, the more severe incontinence becomes just the occasional leak when we sneeze, laugh hard or run. That can last for years as well — for long after those muscles should have healed. I have one friend who says she’s ruined entire outfits with an ill-timed sneeze. Which can be particularly embarrassing in public.
I hear that even if you haven’t given birth, those muscles can lose elasticity with age.
So what to do, ladies? We heal ourselves. You’ve heard of Kegel exercises. They definitely help. Kegels, named, I’m sure, for Dr. Kegel, are performed simply by contracting and relaxing those muscles. If you’re not sure how to contract them, simply stick something inside and squeeze (your finger or other non-toxic instrument works). Then repeat.
Doctors recommend women perform at least three sets of ten Kegels per day. That may not seem like a lot, but many of us have trouble remembering to do them. I’ve heard moms say they try to remember to Kegel at stoplights or while brushing their teeth.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a personal Kegel formula mnemonic. So I’m going to advocate a tool I have tried. Something that’s easier to remember, because it’s less work and feels good. Yes, I’m offering you freedom from accidents, pleasure, and a better sex life (and potentially keeping you from having surgery involving bladder pinning — which sounds unpleasant). And no one’s paying me to give you this gift. Well, Mountain Xpress will pay me for this column, but no sex toy companies have approached, wooed or gifted me.
So, here’s what every postpartum mom needs (once she’s healed from childbirth). It’s what every woman who is sneeze-wary or belly-laugh-wary needs. They’re called Kegel exercise balls or Ben Wa balls (yep, the Japanese have been using them for hundreds of years). You can buy them online, without even having to visit a sex shop. Although I don’t understand why Kegel exercise balls aren’t sold in pharmacies and health supply stores. To my mind, they’re physical therapy devices. Doctors and midwifes recommend them regularly.
They rock. You insert them just as you would a tampon (I prefer the silicone-coated massage/Kegel balls, which also have a handy removal loop, unlike the more traditional Ben Wa balls, which consist of two unconnected, cordless stainless steel spheres).
After insertion, you go about your day. You can wear them for a few minutes or a few hours. They work by vibrating or rolled against each other, which signals the pelvic muscles that something needs to be held onto, thus training them to contract.
You can walk around at work or run errands or cook dinner, and no one but you will know that you’re sporting your own set of balls. The benefit to strengthening these muscles goes beyond protecting your clothes from urine spurts. Strength in that area of a woman’s body typically improves things in the bedroom as well. For everyone involved.
I know you ladies have always wanted your own balls. Go get some.