Most women at some point or another have experienced slight leaks when sneezing, coughing, laughing or during exercise. Whilst we may joke about it amoungst friends, it can actually prove quite embarrassing at times and do any of us know at which point is it beyond normal?
Our little leaks are as a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles. We all hear the phrase ‘Pelvic Floor’ often during conversation and anyone who has had a baby will have been advised (albeit probably very briefly) by the midwife to work them during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Your pelvic floor muscles run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They hold your pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder) in place. These muscles support the bladder and bowel, and give you control when you urinate. They relax at the same time as the bladder contracts (tightens) to let urine out.
These muscles weaken as you age and this is not exclusive to mothers as many childless women also suffer though childbirth can be an accelerator. Weakened pelvic muscles can cause problems, such as urinary incontinence and reduced sensitivity during sex. There is also a risk of prolapse, where one or more of the pelvic organs bulges into the vagina. While such problems can afflict new mums, even those who show no signs of weak pelvic floor muscles can develop difficulties decades later. Any woman is susceptible post-menopause because the reduced levels of oestrogen slackens the muscles.
Around 30 to 40 per cent of women will suffer a prolapse in their lifetime. An estimated 7m women in the UK suffer (usually without discussing it) from some degree of stress incontinence. In 1998 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that bladder control problems affect more than 200m people worldwide.
There are home exercises you can undertake to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles for example try sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times in a row. Do not hold your breath or tighten your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles at the same time. When you get used to doing pelvic floor exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds. Every week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it and always have a rest between sets of squeezes. After a few months, you should start to notice the results. Your incontinence should improve, as well as the sensitivity you experience during sex. You should carry on doing the exercises, even when you notice them starting to work.
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you can start doing pelvic floor exercises straight away. The exercises will lower your risk of experiencing incontinence after having your baby.
It is a common misconception that the best exercise is to stopping the flow of urine when you are going for a wee. This method is really not a good idea because it can be harmful to the bladder and cause urinary tract infection.
Pelvic floor exercises are often called Kegel exercises after Dr Arnold Kegel, who developed them in 1948.
Nowadays there are a wide variety of variable kegel products on a wide price spectrum on the market, specifically designed to increase muscle tone and thus also aiding increased sensitivity during sex. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples……
Silhouette S1 Pink Kegel Exerciser at £73.99
Train your pelvic muscles with this perfectly weighted, premium silicone kegel exerciser. It has an easy retrieval cord and intense incremental speed control that can be adjusted by pressing the button. The practical travel lock feature makes sure the toy doens’t turn on at inconvenient moments.
The Alexandra Ben Wa Balls at £34.99
The Alexandra -Experience one of the oldest forms of female stimulation. Dating back over 100 years, the Kegel Ball was created to enhance the sexual experience by exercising & toning the vaginal muscles. Use the balls alone to increase muscle strength , or with the soft silicone sleeve to take your orgasms to the next level. Perfect alone, or for couples.
Up! Tone It Up! at £19.99
Combining the most velvety, temperature receptive silicone imaginable with deeply felt, perfectly positioned natural vibration, the Up! collection’s Tone It Up Weighted Orgasm Balls offer all the pelvic-floor strengthening benefits of a classic set of ben wa balls, along with with pure, completely discreet pleasure.
If you are concerned about the degree of stress incontinence you may be suffering, it is always advised that you seek professional help as some treatments are available on the NHS.
Credits: NHS, World Health Organisation.