We thought we’d help and every Thursday our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin will be answering your questions. The ones you couldn’t ask your doctor in person. Just leave your questions in the comments, or send em over to us. (We’ll keep it all anonymous for you.) Dr. Lissa will answer anything – really, anything – about sex and other lady things. Don’t be shy; she’s waiting for ya!
Q: Everyone is always talking about Kegel exercises. Do those things really help? And do we really need to do them? I’ve had a boyfriend for 3 years (and we’ve been having regular sex for the entire time), so is it possible that I’m not as “toned” down there as I could be? Is that something I need to worry about?
A: Do the rest of you know what a Kegel exercise is? It’s an exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor. To do Kegel exercises, contract and release the muscles surrounding the vaginal opening. If you’re not sure what I mean, run to the restroom, pee, and try to stop your urine mid-stream. Those are the muscles we’re talking about here.
How can Kegels help you? Let’s break it down into three ways- sexual enhancement, prevention, and treatment. Because these muscles tone the vagina, they can be used to enhance intercourse. By contracting these muscles, you may offer additional pleasure for you and your lover, especially if you’ve had a few babies and things have become a bit loosely goosey down there.
What about prevention? As we age, our tissue gets weaker and our risk of pelvic prolapse and urinary incontinence increases. What’s pelvic prolapse? Well, believe it or not, your uterus, bladder, vagina, and rectum can all sort of fall out. I’ve seen uteruses hanging between people’s legs and herniations of the bladder and rectum into the vagina. This looseness in the vagina can lead to incontinence, pelvic pressure, difficulty with urinating and having bowel movements, and a whole host of other unpleasant symptoms. Kegel exercises help prevent pelvic prolapse and incontinence. By toning these muscles, you help keep things tucked up inside, where they belong.
Kegels help to treat these same conditions. If you’re suffering from pelvic prolapse or incontinence, doing Kegel exercises may be so effective that you can avoid painful surgeries. Although it may not be effective enough, we always start by recommending Kegels. They’re cheap, safe, and easy to do at home. Reminds me of a time I walked into labor and delivery and the nurses were all sitting around a table silently. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. Were they having a séance? Meditating? Finally, one of them, seeing my confused gaze, said, “We’re doing Kegels!” So yes, you can do them anywhere.
Do you need to do them? Not necessarily. If you’re young, healthy, and have a happy sex life, there’s no need to add yet another thing to your busy To Do list. But it can’t hurt. If you think of it- sitting in class, in traffic or out to dinner – why not contract and relax those muscles a few times? Use it or lose it, they say. And trust me, these are definitely muscles you don’t want to lose.
–Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book, What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2010. She invites you to join her Pink online community (www.owningpink.com/forum) or read more of her writing at Owning Pink (www.owningpink.com).