2 Gynae-Approved Ways To Tell If Your Vagina Is Too Weak Or Too Tight
By Melissa Shedden; photograph by Dan Forbes
Why your lady parts may need to chillax…
So, how strong is your vagina?
They’re the key to OMG sex, preventing prolapse and zero leakage anxiety. In fact, strong pelvic-floor muscles are on point right now – apps can track your vagina strength (#ThingsILiftWithMyVagina) and Venus balls are actual things. You know the importance of Kegels as a lady-business exercise done after a baby, clever sex trick, yadda yadda. And the stronger, the better, right?
Surprisingly, no. You can, in fact, have nether regions that are too tight or overactive, explains pelvic physiotherapist Heba Shaheed. “Having a healthy pelvic floor is multifaceted. It should be able to contract strongly, hold for a desired length of time and relax completely,” says Shaheed. Just as you may struggle to isolate this web of muscles to build them, you can also lose the ability to relax the area mindfully. Cue a stressed out vagina — and a long list of associated evils including painful sex, difficulties during labour, trouble using tampons and a physical rejection of your regular pap smears.
Don’t freak though!
“One doesn’t cause the other,” says gynaecologist Dr Deborah Bateson. In other words, if you’ve got a weak one, you can’t over-exercise it. And while some mysteries, like the circumference of Eben Etzebeth’s biceps, are fun to ponder, it pays to know the deets of yours. “The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that supports your bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum,” says Bateson. So when it’s too weak or too strong, all of these areas can’t function properly (read: leakage, farting, surprise number twos).
So, how do you find yours?
“To know if you are switching on the right muscles, you can cup your hand and place your wrist at your tail bone and the palm of your hand scoops under towards your vagina. When you squeeze and lift your pelvic floor, you will feel a tautness in your palm. As you relax your pelvic floor, you will feel it come down and spread out into your palm,” advises Shaheed.
Still unclear? You might need a more hands-on approach. Bateson reckons one of the easiest and quickest tests is to insert two fingers gently into your vagina and try to squeeze them. The trick is to do it sans bum clenching. If you’re still unsure, you’ll need to call in the pros. “There are dedicated physiotherapists who work with women who have pelvic-floor problems. It’s all about retraining those muscles so that you’re in control and not the other way round,” says Bateson.
Try this… If “I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself,” isn’t a joke for you, listen up: to whip your rebellious lady parts into shape, try functional exercise, advises Shaheed. “You want to coordinate the pelvic floor lifts and drops with other muscle groups, like your gluteals,” says Shaheed. She recommends trying with squats, lunges and bridges. Breathe in as you lower, out as you lift (your pelvic floor) and rise up. Repeat five to 10 sets, three times a day.
Try this…If sex feels more daggers in your downstairs area than toe-curling, spine-tinglingly good, there are ways to deal. Research by Jean Hailes For Women’s Health Medical Centre shows one in five women experiences painful sex or pelvic pain. Relax, so you can do it. Try yoga stretches to lengthen the muscles, like child’s pose and happy baby, suggests Shaheed, while Bateson advises warm packs, lying down and dilators — see a women’s health physiotherapist who can put together a programme for you. Control gains.
How to tap into your pelvic floor muscles
Heard you should practise Kegels by stopping your urine flow? Don’t. It may lead to incomplete bladder emptying and an increased risk of UTIs. Rather do this:
1. Imagine you are sitting on the toilet seat and you want to stop your wee (but don’t actually do it while weeing, as above).
2. Think of your bits as a straw and you’re trying to suck a smoothie up through it.
3. Work on tightening them, as you would around your man during sex.
4. Imagine the way a pebble drops into a pond and the ripples it makes outwards. Now do the reverse movement within your pelvic floor — bring the ripples together and pull the pebble up.