I've never been one to shy away from taboo subjects in hope of inspiring or helping others. Today's subject is, of course, the female pelvic floor and the embarrassing and at times painful issues that come with it, especially when it's not toned, fit and healthy. Most people believe that these issues only really happen to older ladies but the reality is they can happen to anyone of any age but, more so to those who have had large babies or multiple pregnancies.
I myself have had three large baby boys in quick succession (over three years, with my first two being only eleven months apart - shocking I know). My first pregnancy resulted in a double mediolateral episiotomy (two large diagonal cuts through the muscle) and my final pregnancy resulted in a sterilisation twelve weeks after my son's birth. The sterilisation preceded some pretty serious health issues also which of course meant that exercise was out of the question - dammit even walking was out of the question for a while.
Long story short, my pelvic floor and basically every muscle large and small sucked quite badly. I definitely did see and feel the effects of having a pathetic pelvic floor and I tried to follow the recommended pelvic floor exercises daily. I actually struggled to hold one squeeze for ten seconds and started shaking all over. It was tough!
Even when I managed to up my manual squeezes to ten for ten seconds I still had issues with my back, stomach and toileting habits. I really think that it's a shame that us ladies can't discuss these topics, don't you? Especially given how many of us will suffer from varying degrees of this over the course of our life? How are we supposed to know what to do unless we talk to each other, find out each other tried and tested methods and support each other?
Symptoms of weakened Pelvic Muscles Include...
♥ Bladder Leaks | Coughing, sneezing and even jumping can result in embarrassing leaks.
♥ Constipation & Straining | When the muscles are loosened things aren't held in as they should, this causes 'kinks' which can stop the poop from travelling down the normal route.
♥ Tampons Not Working Perfectly | Again this may be due to looser muscles or prolapses altering the shape so the tampon can't sit as snug as is needed.
♥ Pot Belly // When your muscles aren't tight your belly sticks out, this may make it look like you've put on weight as your muscles separate and poke outwards.
♥ Lower Back Ache | This may feel worse around your cycle also, it can be debilitating for some.
♥ Trapped Wind That's Uncontrollable | Yup it's true, wind may accidentally slip out causing embarrassment.
♥ Lack of Sensations or Pain | This really needs no explanation, the sensation can be lost in the vaginal walls if your pelvic floor area is looser, similarly, some ladies experience pain from having a prolapse.
♥ Constantly Needing to Visit The Loo | When things are looser it can push down on your bladder and other organs, this increases the sensation of 'needing to go' even if you've just been to the toilet. This alone can stop ladies from getting a good sleep, affects work and confidence.
♥ Prolapse (Bulging into the Vagina) | This will look like a lump or bulge that pokes into the vaginal area, this bulge worsens when pushing on the toilet for example.
♥ Increased Vaginal Discharge | When everything is been pushed on the body naturally increases lubrication to protect itself.
Typically the pelvic floor muscles are weakened when they are stretched - being constipated, pregnancy, heavy lifting, health problems that lead to severe coughing or sneezing; weight gain and also hormonal changes can lead to overstretching and greatly affect this area. That's why many older ladies suffer once the menopause hits.
Also if you don't exercise that area then your age won't stop it from happening; you can be young, never having had any pregnancies, have a healthy BMI and no hormonal issues but the area will still slacken because it's not being worked or being put to use.
The Kegel8 Ultra 20 Machine works in a couple of ways, it comes with both a probe and electrode pads. The probe works by being inserted into the vagina and gets straight to the problem area by toning the muscles and tightening up the pelvic floor. If you can't use the probe or even need an extra boost then you can apply the four sticky electrode pads to your stomach, back, legs or basically anywhere that may need firming, toning or pain relief as it works in a similar way to a TENS machine.
The unit allows you to run two things at once on different programmes - for example, you can run the probe at a very low beginners programme and the electrodes at a higher programme say for pain relief. I've tried a few programmes now and initially, I was really scared (having previously tried Slendertone machines that zap you *eek*) but the Ultra 20 doesn't hurt whatsoever. You can set it up and clip the unit to your trousers or belt and go about your day (in the house at least) as normal - I'm now happily on a 40MA (power and strength, this level really work your muscles) for around 45 minutes per day. I have used the pads alone for my stomach (to help cramps) and my back (to help backache).
While I've only been using this for a few days I will be using this daily for the recommended twelve weeks so will be reporting back regularly on how well it's performing. It's important for me to really let you know the pro's and con's because (hopefully) this works in every aspect and can help others in a similar situation, there's nothing worse than having to alter your life or being too embarrassed to discuss this with your doctor.
There are lots of products on the market to help improve this situation but my opinion was that an electronic product allows you to really customise your exercise to suit your personal tone and needs. Honestly I'm much more likely to use an electronic anything than a manual when it comes to exercise and yes that includes intimate exercises, if you're similar or have issues relating to a weakened pelvic floor you may want to check out Kegel 8's range of electronic and manual products (for men and ladies) you can do so by visiting the Kegel 8 website.
I understand that this might be out of the price range for some people, however, there are cheaper alternatives on the market. The following pelvic toners are reviewed highly, but I personally cannot vouch for them as I haven't tried them, so you should try them out.
Ladies let's not make this subject taboo any longer! Girl Power!
Edit: OK so I used this machine daily for months. I used it with a variety of settings and found that I was starting to notice the benefits from around the 2-3 week mark. After 4-6 weeks of, use I found I could even manually hold a kegel without the pain, awkwardness and shaking. Now that it's been nearly two years since I originally published this review I can wholeheartedly say that this machine makes a difference, you need to also put in the work and use it as recommended but, if you do your pelvic floor will thank you.