Pelvic Floored!

When I was at an ante-natal class, back in the mists of time, I remember the midwife describing the pelvic floor as a hammock. It’s a kind of sling of muscles down below that keeps everything supported.

Well, back then, my pelvic floor was one of those tightly strung hammocks, the sort that’s pretty tricky to get into and has a habit of summarily ejecting you straight out the other side.

Now, however, three children and fifteen years later, my hammock is more of a low slung one that you climb into, only to find that your bum is actually resting on the floor.

I remember the first time I gave any thought to pelvic muscle tone. I was about sixteen, and going to stay with a friend. She said by the way, don’t make my mother laugh. I asked why not. I shouldn’t have done, because she answered when she laughs her Tampax falls out. Needless to say, I spent all weekend terrified that I might be inadvertently amusing, and find Mrs Ponsonby’s (not her real name) tampon skittering across the kitchen floor.

About three years later, I encountered the other end of the pelvic spectrum, so to speak. I was travelling in the Far East, and was hanging out with an international group of backpackers who decided to go to one of the ‘girlie bars’ on Pat Pong. It was all part of the authentic Bangkok experience, they said.

They found a bar which didn’t charge an entry fee (we were all surviving on about $5 a day), but we discovered, once it was rather too late to back out, that they charged a fortune for drinks.

I paid for a small beer, which I knew would have to last me for as long as I was there. I feel deeply uncomfortable now, knowing how badly the women in that bar were being exploited. I didn’t understand any of that back then, I just thought what incredible muscle tone they had. They did a show where they fired ping-pong balls from their vaginas, as fast as bullets, into the audience. 

With a sickening ‘plop’ one landed directly into my very expensive beer. I left, but never forgot what could be done with an impressively trained pelvic floor.

My pelvic floor has held its own fairly well, all things considered. But there are times when I become rather aware of its age. My trampolining days are, for example, behind me. 

I also had a number of rather tortuous experiences a few years back, when some friends of mine and I clubbed together to hire a personal trainer once a week, to put us through our middle-aged paces in the park. On the upside, he was utterly gorgeous. On the downside, he had a penchant for a skipping rope. Every time he produced the rope, my pelvic floor and I would groan inwardly, and I was way too embarrassed to confess the reason why I hated skipping.

I’m aware that the gradual slackening of the old pelvic muscles is common in women of my age. I know this because I am being stalked all over the internet by advertisements for Tena Lady pads and something called pee-proof pants. I accept that my days of wearing Agent Provocateur are behind me, but waterproof undies really is a step too far.

Pelvic-floor wise, things are only going to get worse. I know that the trick is to do regular pelvic floor exercises, or ‘kegels.’ But, like flossing, they’re the sort of thing you do for a while, in a flurry of righteous enthusiasm, then forget all about. Someone told me that the way to remember was to get into the habit of doing your exercises whenever you’re stopped at a red traffic light. 

I tried this for a bit, but just became obsessed with looking at the other female drivers around me, trying to work out whether they were doing the same. What expression do you wear on your face, I’d wonder, when you’re tightening your pelvic floor muscles? Slight surprise? Mild pain? Or just a faraway stare?

In the interests of this blog post, I thought I’d Google how to strengthen the pelvic floor, to see if there was any alternative to boring exercises. I realise that typing that into a search engine will result in a doubling of the incontinence stalking. I’m taking one for the team here, you understand.

Anyhow, it turns out there are these devices called intra-vaginal probes (I kid you not. How long did it take the marketing department to come up with something that sounds so alluring, I wonder?) 

The claims made about these things are pretty impressive: no more frequent visits to the loo, no more accidentally passing wind (those embarrassing moments in the yoga class could be over), and even no more lack-lustre love life: you and your partner will both notice the difference. Gosh. I hadn’t actually worried about my love life, but now I’m paranoid that it’s a bit like waving an arm in the Royal Albert Hall. 

So, time for some reader feedback. Has anyone tried one of these things? Do you think that it’s worth buying one of these lovely gadgets and giving it a whirl? (Gosh, I hope they don’t whirl. That could be painful). Please let me know in the comments below. My pelvic floor is in your hands.

I’ll leave you with that unnerving image, and a reminder to check out the Life in the Hot Lane Facebook Page. This week there’s an excerpt from the brilliant book by my friends over at the Age Well Project, a wonderful blog post on mid-life crisis underwear by Lisa Timoney, and the genius monologue from Fleabag by Kristin Scott Thomas on why you should look forward to the menopause. ‘Like’ the page to stay updated!

Coming up on the blog next week: INAPPROPRIATE LUST!

14 thoughts on “Pelvic Floored!

  1. If this inexpensive gadget does work (and not whirl), please let us know! The electrical currents produced frightens me a bit…you don’t want to light up the Royal Albert Hall, just make it a bit cozier. I’ve struggled with PF issues for years. I’ve been to the physio (kegels are just the start of the exercises), had a surgery, made faces while stopped at red lights, tried medication, etc. Did you know that your diaphragm and pelvic floor work in sync? So working on your breathing is very helpful with this as well. All this said, I’ve read the description and am intrigued!


  2. Dear Clare, embarrassed to confess this, BUT I tried the weighted thingys that you stick up there and try to hold them in! It sucked, I sucked at it and found that regular, normal exercise was really the best thing for the pelvic floor. The more exercise (yoga, Pilates, CX works, pump) that works your core, the less you pee your pants. True story. Exception is when you get a bad longish term cough! No stopping that!


  3. Oh Clare as usual a super blog and great subject matter. I’m 52 and have actually opened to ad for the pee proof pants to see how much they cost!! Needless to say I shall continue to do traffic light crunchies!! Bubble. X


  4. I’ve had two babies, both in France, where after the delivery women are systematically invited to a number if sessions with a midwife who has one of those devices and not to put too fine a point on it, she becomes the personal trainer of your pelvic floor to the point you are hitting the high scores… I can’t really comment if that was especially effective, but it was certainly a life experience. Fully agree with the person who commented on core strength. I find body pump a winner.


  5. Claire, I’ve seen these shorts on a TV shopping channel. Apparently electric pulses work the pelvic floor muscles as you relax. If they actually work I’d go for these over the other intra vaginal thingy any day. Only the price puts me off.


  6. Something interesting I’ve just learned is that, surprisingly, overly tight pelvic floor muscles can cause as many problems as weak ones. Apparently many people are misdiagnosed, so do a little research before you start working to tighten them up because you might end up doing more harm than good. See hypertonic vs hypotonic pelvic floor muscles. Here’s a link to the top eight myths about the pelvic floor:

    My first thought was, oh yay, yet another thing women have been suffering from that the medical community has virtually ignored. smh.


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