Thanks to Perifit for sponsoring today’s post!
We talk a lot on the blog about pelvic floor health, vaginismus, and postpartum sexual pain. Rebecca and Joanna (with whom I just finished writing The Great Sex Rescue, due out from Baker books next year!) both have had postpartum sexual pain, which they discussed on the podcast, and I, of course, suffered from vaginismus, as I’ve talked about here and also in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.
Are we just outliers? Nope! Sexual pain is really common… but it doesn’t get talked about
Is it just a fluke that the three of us have all had sexual pain issues? Not really. One study, for example, found that 50% of women have sexual pain 3 months postpartum after their first child was born. And that’s not counting primary vaginismus, vulvodynia, and other forms of female sexual pain (dyspareunia).
But the problem with women’s sexual pain issues: it doesn’t get talked about enough. It’s a woefully understudied area in the scientific literature. As of May 28, 2020, there are 404 published journal articles on vaginismus on PubMed, which is the US government’s database for journal articles. Erectile dysfunction? That has 25,377.
And the church doesn’t do a great job either: there isn’t a single article on vaginismus or postpartum sexual pain on Focus on the Family’s website. Oof.
Okay, so pelvic floor dysfunction is a big deal and no one is talking about it. What are women to do?
We need a strong foundation (literally.)
First of all: we need to make sure our pelvic floor muscles are strong! Why? Because the pelvic floor is the… floor of the pelvis. I know that’s obvious, but let me explain why it matters with a quick story from Joanna:
When I was 12, I wore my grandmother’s old sneakers to run cross country. They were nice shoes, but grandma had really high arches in her feet and I have almost no arch. Unfortunately, because of the differences in how our feet were built, the shoes created gait problems that made my running really slow. I still have problems running quickly for long periods of time – I have to focus really intensely on my posture because of the bad habits I created when I had the wrong shoes. A problem with my feet became a problem with my hips, knees, and so on. Fixing the problem started with fixing the issues with my foundation.
The same principle applies to our pelvic floor. Having a strong foundation helps to keep the rest of our core strong. Plus, having a strong pelvic floor is linked to a lower risk of tearing postpartum, less problems with leaking urine when sneezing, jumping on a trampoline, or busting your gut laughing. It’s also associated with more intense orgasms!
The traditional advice has been for women to do Kegel exercises and they are often an amazing part of a good pelvic floor health regimen. But Kegels can be genuinely difficult to do – it’s often hard to isolate the pelvic floor muscles from the abs or muscles in the butt. Plus, let’s be honest, they’re boring. Genuinely, I don’t get the same sense of accomplishment from doing Kegels that I do from yoga or going on a walk or lifting weights. It doesn’t make me sweat and it feels more like making the bed. I’m NOT saying they aren’t important, but I know many women have a hard time being motivated to do them… and I think that’s largely due to how boring they feel.
The other difficult with Kegels is that it’s hard to feel like you’re making progress because the results are relatively intangible. I’m working on my flexibility right now by doing yoga and my goal is to get my heels to touch the ground when I do a downward facing dog. That’s very tangible: I’ll know when I’ve achieved it. Kegels are different and it can be hard to know if they’re working or not, especially if you aren’t in pelvic floor physiotherapy.
Pelvic floor exercise is clearly a good, important thing. But most of us find it really hard to be “on it” and get the exercises done. Clearly we need to change something.
Disclaimer: we do not recommend using any pelvic floor item before having an examination done by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Many women suffer with a weak pelvic floor and the Perifit would be excellent for these women, but others have different issues that may not be helped with kegel exercises, or may be made worse by excessive kegels. If you are interested in the Perifit, please talk to a licensed professional about your personal pelvic floor physiotherapy needs and ask them if the Perifit is right for you.
Enter Perifit: the company that turned doing pelvic floor exercises… into a video game.
Gamification is a really amazing psychological strategy that we can use to motivate ourselves. Having trouble reading your Bible? There’s an app for that. Want to learn a language? There’s an app for that too. All of these apps use periodic rewards to help motivate us and to keep us engaged. (That’s also why mobile games can be so “more-ish”. But hey, let’s use a weird feature of the brain to help keep us motivated to do things that are good for us!)
We were REALLY excited when Perifit offered to let us try their pelvic floor exerciser. It’s a small, medical grate silicone device that includes two sensors so that it works both the superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles. Amazing!
It connects to an app on your phone and then you can use your pelvic floor muscles to control a little butterfly or bird as she flies along, collecting prizes as you go. Think “jetpack joyride” but with your vagina. No joke, you can even unlock “flappy bird” as a game option in the app.
One review made a point that really made me laugh:
Playing a video game with your vagina is a singularly exhilarating experience—it almost feels like magic. It occurred to me one night when I was using Perifit in a skirt that if someone were to ask what I was doing, I could have convinced them that I was practicing with a telepathy app.
Because Perifit is connected to an app, it also lets you know how strong your pelvic floor is since it does a quick “check in” each time you start the app. It also gives you a lovely statistical report that you can access after each session, which allows you to see your progress over time. I don’t know about you, but I know seeing measurable progress really helps me to stay motivated. Frankly, that’s really hard to manage with Kegels alone and the reports that come out of the app are one of the features I like best about Perifit.
Now, here’s the thing: if you’re experiencing major sexual pain, whether you have primary vaginismus or are dealing with postpartum pain, we think it’s really important that you talk to your doctor and/or pelvic floor physiotherapist before trying it. Some women need toning and strength training as part of their pelvic floor physiotherapy. Others need more loosening and would be better helped by dilator sets or other therapies.
But if you’re looking for pelvic floor strengthening, Perifit is a great option to investigate. They also have a 100-day trial period, too, with a money-back guarantee!
Have you tried pelvic floor exercises? And do you think gamification could help you keep your pelvic floor toned? Let me know in the comments!