Posts Tagged ‘The Kegel Fix’

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)—Gun and Bullet Analogy

November 18, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   11/18/17

With all the violence and senseless shootings in the USA, I hate to even mention the words “guns” and “bullets,” but they do offer a convenient metaphor to better understand the concept of stress urinary incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a spurt-like leakage of urine at the time of a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, such as occurs with sneezing, coughing, jumping, bending and exercising. It is particularly likely to occur when upright and active as opposed to when sitting or lying down, because of the effect of gravity and the particular anatomy of the bladder and urethra. It is common in women following vaginal childbirth, particularly after difficult and prolonged deliveries.  It also can occur in men, generally after prostate surgery for prostate cancer and sometimes after surgical procedures done for benign prostate enlargement. 7. SUIIllustration above by Ashley Halsey from The Kegel Fix

Although not a serious issue like heart disease, cancer, etc., SUI nonetheless can be debilitating, requiring the use of protective pads and often necessitating activity limitations and restrictions of fluid intake in an effort to help manage the problem. It  certainly can impair one’s quality of life.

The root cause of SUI is typically a combination of factors causing damage to the bladder neck and urethra or their support mechanisms.  In females, pelvic birth trauma as well as aging, weight gain, chronic straining and menopausal changes weaken the pelvic muscular and connective tissue support.  In males this can occur after radical prostatectomy, although fortunately with improved techniques and the robotic-assisted laparoscopic  approach, this happens much less frequently than it did in prior years.

An effective means of understanding SUI is to view a bladder x-ray (done in standing upright position) of a person without SUI and compare it to a woman or man with SUI.  The bladder x-ray is performed by instilling contrast into the urinary bladder via a small catheter inserted into the urethra.

A healthy bladder appears oval in shape because the bladder neck (situated at the junction of the bladder and urethra) is competent and closed at all times except when urinating, at which time it relaxes and opens to provide urine flow.  An x-ray of the bladder of a woman or man with SUI will appear oval except for the 6:00 position (the bladder neck) where a small triangle of contrast is present (representing contrast within the bladder neck).  This appears as a “funnel” or a “widow’s peak.” With coughing or straining, there is progressive funneling and leakage.

normal bladder

Above photo is normal oval shape of contrast-filled bladder of person without SUI

female sui relaxAbove photo is typical funneled shape of contrast-filled bladder of female with SUI

male suiAbove photo is typical funneled shape of contrast-filled bladder of male with SUI following a prostatectomy

female sui strainAbove photo shows progressive funneling and urinary leakage in female asked to cough, demonstrating SUI 

 

The presence of urine within the bladder neck region is analogous to a bullet loaded within the chamber of a gun.  Essentially the bladder is “loaded,” ready to fire at any time when there is a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, which creates a vector of force analogous to firing the gun.

What to do about SUI?

Conservative management options include pelvic floor muscle training to increase the strength and endurance of the muscles that contribute to bladder and urethra support and urinary sphincter control.  Surgical management includes sling procedures (tape-like material surgically implanted under the urethra) to provide sufficient support and compression.  Sling procedures are available to treat SUI in both women and men.  An alternative is urethral bulking agents, injections of materials to bulk up and help close the leaky urethra. On occasion, when the bladder neck is rendered incompetent  resulting in severe urinary incontinence, implantation of an artificial urinary sphincter may be required to cure or vastly improve the problem.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

 

 

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6 Ways To Reduce Risk for Pelvic Problems: Urinary Leakage, Dropped Bladder & Sexual Issues

November 4, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  11/4/17

shutterstock_femalebluepelvic

Ease into this topic with a write-up by Melanie Hearse about altered vaginal anatomy after childbirth and what to do and not to do about it, from BodyandSoul.com Australia: This woman has a warning about ‘fixing’ your downstairs after birth.

Our health culture in the USA is largely reactive as opposed to proactive.  Undoubtedly, a better model is prevention as opposed to intervention.  Attention to a few basic measures can make all the  difference in your pelvic health “destiny”:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Weight gain and obesity increase the occurrence of urinary control problems, dropped bladder, sexual, and other pelvic issues. Follow the advice of Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  Consume a nutritionally-rich diet with abundant fruits and vegetables (full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber) and real food, versus processed and refined food products.  A healthy diet (quality fuel) is essential for ongoing tissue repair, reconstruction and regeneration. Stay physically active, obtain sufficient sleep, manage stress as best as possible, avoid tobacco (an awful habit, with chronic cough contributing to pelvic floor issues) and consume alcohol moderately.  Physical activity should include aerobic (cardio), strength, flexibility and core training (yoga, Pilates, etc.), the latter of which is especially helpful in preventing pelvic issues since the pelvic floor muscles form the floor of the core. A recent Harvard Medical School health report entitled “Best exercises for your body” recommended swimming, Tai chi, strength training, walking and Kegel exercises.
  • Prepare before pregnancy. Pregnancy, labor and vaginal delivery are the most compelling risk factors for pelvic floor issues. Commit to healthy lifestyle measures and pelvic floor muscle training as detailed above even before considering pregnancy in order to prevent/minimize the onset of pelvic issues that commonly follow pregnancy and childbirth.  The following article, written by Corynne Cirilli for Refinery 29 on October 6, addresses this issue in detail and is well worth reading: Why Aren’t We Talking About Pre-Baby Bodies?
  • Pelvic floor muscle training. Kegel exercises to increase pelvic muscle strength and endurance are vital to prevent pelvic floor issues. The Kegel Fix is a paperback book that guides you how to do Kegel contractions properly, provides specific training programs for each pelvic issue and teaches you how to put this skill set into practical use—Kegels “on demand.”
  • Avoid constipation and other forms of chronic increased abdominal pressure. Chronic constipation (bowel “labor”) can be as damaging to the pelvic floor as vaginal deliveries. Coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting (particularly weight training) and high impact sports all increase abdominal pressures, so take measures to suppress coughing, treat allergies to minimize sneezing and not overdo weight training and high-impact sports.
  • Consider vaginal estrogen therapy. After menopause, topical estrogen can nourish and nurture the vaginal and pelvic tissues that are adversely affected by the cessation of estrogen production. Low dose topical therapy can be effective with minimal systemic absorption, providing benefits while avoiding systemic side effects.
  • Get checked! Be proactive by periodically seeing your physician for a pelvic exam. It is best to diagnose a problem in its earliest presentation and manage it before it becomes a greater issue.

Bottom Line: Prepare and prevent rather than repair and prevent!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning individuals who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling strong and confident.

 

 

5 Kegel Exercise Mistakes You Are Probably Making

October 21, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD 10/21/17

Do it right or don't do it

I have always been fond of this sentiment, the words of which were immortalized for me on a coffee mug courtesy of then 10-year-old Jeff Siegel (my son).  This statement holds true for everything in life, including pelvic floor exercises. 

Dr. Arnold Kegel (1894-1981), a gynecologist who taught at USC School of Medicine,  popularized pelvic floor muscle exercises to improve the sexual and urinary health of women following childbirth. His legacy is the pelvic exercise that bears his name—Kegels.

“Do your Kegels” is common advice from many a gynecologist (and from well-intentioned friends and family), particularly after a difficult childbirth has caused problems “down there.”  These pelvic issues include urinary leakage, drooping bladder, and stretching of the vagina such that things look and feel different and sex is just not the same.

“Do your Kegels” is sensible advice since this strengthens the pelvic floor muscles that support the pelvic organs, contribute to urinary and bowel control, and are intimately involved with sexual function. Developing strong and durable pelvic floor muscles is capable of improving, if not curing, these pelvic issues. Unfortunately, mastery of the pelvic floor is not as easy as it sounds because these muscles are internal and hidden and most often used subconsciously (unlike the external glamour muscles that are external and visible and used consciously).  

  The Kegel problem is threefold:

  1. Many women do not know how to do a proper Kegel contraction.
  2. Of those that can do a proper Kegel contraction, most do not pursue a Kegel exercise training program.
  3. Even those women who do know how to do a proper Kegel contraction and pursue a Kegel exercise training program are rarely, if ever, taught the most important aspect of pelvic muscle proficiency: how to put the Kegels to practical use in real-life situations  (“Kegels-on-demand”).

If a Kegel pelvic floor contraction is done incorrectly, not only will the pelvic issue not be helped, but actually could made worse. Only doing pelvic muscle contractions without pursuing a well-designed pelvic floor muscle training program is often an invitation to failure. Finally, if “Kegels-on-demand” to improve pelvic issues are not taught, it is virtually pointless to learn a proper contraction and complete a program, since the ultimate goal is the integration of Kegels into one’s daily life to improve quality. 

How does one do a proper Kegel pelvic contraction?  Simply stated, a Kegel is an isolated contraction of the pelvic floor muscles that draw in and lift the perineum (the region between vagina and anus). The feeling should be of this anatomical sector moving “up” and “in.”

5 Common Kegel Exercise Mistakes

Mistake # 1: Holding Your Breath

Breathe normally.  The Kegel muscles are the floor of the core group of muscles, a barrel of central muscles that consist of the diaphragm on top, the pelvic floor on the bottom, the abds in front and on the sides, and the spinal muscles in the back. Holding your breath pushes the diaphragm muscle down and increases intra-abdominal pressure, which pushes the pelvic floor muscles down, just the opposite direction you want them moving.

Mistake # 2: Contracting the Wrong Muscles

When I ask patients to squeeze their pelvic floor muscles during a pelvic exam, they often contract the wrong muscles, usually the abdominals, buttocks or thigh muscles. Tightening up the glutes is not a Kegel!  Others squeeze their legs together, contracting their thigh muscles.  Still others lift their butts in the air, a yoga and Pilates position called “bridge.” The worst mistake is straining and pushing down as if moving one’s bowels, just the opposite of a Kegel which should cause an inward and upward lift.

Fact: I have found that even health care personnel—those “in the know,” including physical therapists, personal trainers and nurses—have difficulty becoming adept at doing Kegels. 

Sadly, there is a device on the market (see below) called the “Kegel Pelvic Muscle Thigh Exerciser,” a Y-shaped plastic device that fits between your inner thighs such that when you squeeze your thighs together, the gadget squeezes closed. This exerciser has NOTHING to do with pelvic floor muscles (as it strengthens the adductor muscles of the thigh), serving only to reinforce doing the wrong exercise and it is shameful that the manufacturer mentions the terms “Kegel” and “pelvic muscle” in the description of this product.

kegeler

Learning to master one’s pelvic floor muscles requires an education on the details and specifics of the pelvic floor muscles, learning the proper techniques of conditioning them and finally, the practical application of the exercises to one’s specific issues.

Mistake # 3: Not Using a Kegel Program

Kegel exercises can potentially address many different pelvic problems—pelvic organ prolapse, sexual issues, stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder/bowel, and pelvic pain due to excessive pelvic muscle tension.  Each of these issues has unique pelvic floor muscle shortcomings.  Doing casual pelvic exercises does not compare to a program, which is a home-based, progressive, strength, power and endurance training regimen that is designed, tailored and customized for the specific pelvic floor problem at hand. Only by engaging in such a program will one be enabled to master pelvic fitness and optimize pelvic support and sexual, urinary and bowel function.

Mistake # 4: Impatience

Transformation does not occur overnight!  Like other exercise programs, Kegels are a “slow fix.”  In our instant gratification world, many are not motivated or enthused about slow fixes and the investment of time and effort required of an exercise program, which lacks the sizzle and quick fix of pharmaceuticals or surgery. Realistically, it can take 6 weeks or more before you notice improvement, and after you do notice improvement, a “maintenance” Kegel training regimen needs to be continued (use it or lose it!)

Mistake # 5: Not Training for Function (“Kegels-on-Demand”)

Sadly, most women who pursue pelvic training do not understand how to put their newfound knowledge and skills to real life use. The ultimate goal of Kegels is achieving functional pelvic fitness, applying one’s pelvic proficiency to daily tasks and common everyday activities so as to improve one’s quality of life.  It is vital, of course, to begin with static and isolated, “out of context” exercises, but eventually one needs to learn to integrate the exercises on an on-demand basis (putting them in to “context”) so as to improve leakage, bladder and pelvic organ descent, sexual function, etc.

Bottom Line: Kegel pelvic floor muscle exercises are a vastly under-exploited and misunderstood resource, despite great potential benefits of conditioning these small muscles.  In addition to improving a variety of pelvic issues (urinary and bowel leakage, sexual issues, dropped bladder, etc.), a strong and fit pelvic floor helps one prepare for pregnancy, childbirth, aging and high impact sports.  The Kegel Fix book is a wonderful resource that teaches the reader how to do proper Kegels, provides specific programs for each unique pelvic issue, and reveals the specifics of “Kegels-on-demand,” how to put one’s fit pelvic floor and contraction proficiency to practical use in the real world.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

 

 

Kegels: One Size Does Not Fit All!

October 7, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   10/7/17

shutterstock_femalebluepelvic

Athletes use a variety of fitness and strength-training programs to maximize their strength and endurance. A one-size-fits-all approach—the same exercise regimen applied to all—is clearly not advantageous because of the varying functional requirements for different sports.  Specific, targeted and individualized exercise programs are used to enhance and optimize performance, depending upon the particular sport and individual athlete. The ultimate goal of training is “functional fitness,” the achievement of strength, power, stamina and the skill set to improve performance and prevent specific functional impairments (injuries).

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a broad term applied to the scenario when the pelvic muscles and connective tissues are no longer functioning optimally.  This gives rise to pelvic issues including pelvic organ prolapse, urinary and bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain syndromes.  A one-size-fits-all Kegel pelvic floor muscle exercise approach has traditionally been used to manage all forms of pelvic floor dysfunctions. For many years, patients who were thought to be able to benefit from Kegels were handed a brochure with instructions to do 10 repetitions of a 10-second Kegel contraction followed by 10 rapid contractions, three times daily.

Are their shortcomings with this one-size-fits-all approach?  Clearly, the answer is yes. A one-size-fits-all approach lacks the nuance necessary to properly tackle the different types of pelvic floor dysfunction. Aligning the pelvic floor dysfunction with the appropriately tailored training program that focuses on improving the area of weakness is vitally important, since each pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with unique and specific deficits in pelvic muscle strength, power and/or endurance. One size does not fit all!

After decades of “stagnancy” following the 1940s transformative work of Dr. Arnold Kegel—the physician who was singularly responsible for popularizing pelvic floor exercises in women after childbirth–there has been a resurgence of interest in pelvic floor training. I am humbled and honored to have contributed to this “pelvic renaissance” with the publication of the short paperback book The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health, which introduces home-based, progressive, tailored exercises consisting of strength, power and endurance pelvic training regimens customized for each specific pelvic floor problem.

The initial goal of pelvic floor muscle training is muscle adaptation, the process by which pelvic muscle growth occurs in response to the demands placed it, with adaptive changes occurring in proportion to the effort put into the exercises. More challenging exercises are needed over time in order to continue the growth process that occurs as “new normal” levels of pelvic fitness are established. This translates into slowly and gradually increasing contraction intensity, duration of contractions, number of repetitions and number of sets.  The “plasticity” of the pelvic muscles require continued training, at minimum a “maintenance” program after completion of a course of pelvic training.

Although the short-term goal of pelvic floor muscle training is adaptation, the long-term goal is the achievement of functional pelvic fitness.  The vast majority of women who are taught Kegel exercises are not instructed how to put them into practical use. Go figure!  This concept of functional pelvic fitness is the actionable means of applying pelvic conditioning to daily tasks and real-life common activities. This is the essence of Kegel pelvic floor training—not simply to condition the pelvic floor muscles, but to apply this conditioning and proficiency in such a way and at the appropriate times so as to improve quality of one’s life.   These Kegels-on-demand—as I refer to them—can be lifesavers and quite a different take on Kegels, as opposed to static, isolated, out of context exercises.

Important Nuances and Details of Pelvic Training

Contraction intensity: This is the extent that the pelvic muscles are squeezed, ranging from a weak flicker of the muscles to a robust and vigorous contraction. High intensity contractions build muscle strength, whereas less intensive, but more sustained contractions, build endurance.

Contraction Type: Pelvic contractions vary in duration. It is relatively easy to intensively contract the pelvic muscles for a brief period, but difficult to maintain that intensity for a longer duration contraction. Snaps are rapid, high intensity pulses that take less than one second per cycle of contracting and relaxing. Shorts are slower, less intense squeezes that can last anywhere from two to five seconds. Sustained are less intense squeezes that last ten seconds or longer.

Relaxation duration: The amount of time the pelvic muscles are unclenched between contractions.

Repetitions: The number of contractions performed in a single set.

Set: A unit of exercise.

Strength: The maximum amount of force that a pelvic muscle can exert.

Power: The ability to rapidly achieve a full intensity contraction, which is a measure of contraction strength and speed–in other words, how quickly strength can be expressed.  Power is fostered by rapidly and explosively contracting the pelvic muscles.

Endurance (stamina): This is the ability to sustain a pelvic contraction for a prolonged time and the ability to perform multiple contractions before fatigue sets in.

Range of motion: The cycle of full pelvic contraction (muscle shortening) to complete relaxation (muscle lengthening).  This is vital in pelvic muscle training because the goal is not only to increase strength, power and endurance, but also flexibility, which is accomplished by bringing the muscle through the full range of motion.

Bottom Line:  A one-size-fits-all Kegel pelvic floor exercise program does not suit all women with pelvic floor dysfunction. To obtain optimal results, pelvic training must be tailored to the specific dysfunction. The achievement of functional pelvic fitness is one of the key goals (“key-goals”… get it?) of Kegel exercises and of the Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.  Finally, it is important to know that pelvic exercises are appropriate not only for women suffering with the aforementioned pelvic floor dysfunctions, but also for those who wish to maintain healthy pelvic functioning and prevent future problems.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in dire need of bridging.

For informative information on pelvic floor muscle training, please consult the following books by the author:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

Cover

The Kegel Fix is written for educated and discerning women who care about health, well-being, fitness, nutrition and enjoy feeling confident, sexy and strong.  The book has separate chapters on each of the pelvic floor dysfunctions and provides a specific, targeted pelvic floor training regimen for each.

 

Sex And The Female Pelvic Floor Muscles

July 15, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   7/15/17

The vagina and clitoris are the stars of the show, but the pelvic floor muscles are the behind-the-scenes “powerhouse” of these structures. The relationship between the pelvic muscles and the female sexual organs is similar to that between the diaphragm muscle and the lungs, the lungs as dependent upon the diaphragm for their proper functioning as the vagina and clitoris are on the pelvic muscles for their proper functioning.  The bottom line is that keeping the pelvic muscles fit and vital will not only optimize sexual function and pleasure, but will also benefit urinary, bowel and pelvic support issues as well as help prevent their onset. 15606-illustrated-silhouette-of-a-beautiful-woman-or

Image above, public domain

Size Matters

While penis size is a matter of concern to many, why is vaginal size so much less of an issue?  The reason is that penises are external and visible and vaginas internal and hidden. The average erect penis is 6 inches in length and the average vagina 4 inches in depth, implying that the average man is more than ample for the average woman. The width of the average erect penis is 1.5 inches and the width of the average vaginal opening is virtually zero inches since the vagina is a potential space with the walls touching each other at rest. However, the vagina is a highly accommodative organ that can stretch, expand and adapt to the extent that 10 pound babies can be delivered vaginally (ouch!).

More important than size is the strength and tone of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles. Possessing well-developed and fit vaginal and pelvic floor muscles is an asset in the bedroom, not only capable of maximizing your own pleasure, but also effective in optimally gripping and “milking” a penis to climax.  Additionally, when partner erectile dysfunction issues exist, strong pelvic floor muscles can help compensate as they can resurrect (great word!) a penis that is becoming flaccid back to full rigidity.

Female Sexuality

Sex is a basic human need and a powerful means of connecting and bonding, central to the intimacy of interpersonal relationships, contributing to wellbeing and quality of life. Healthy sexual functioning is a vital part of general, physical, mental, social and emotional health.

Female sexuality is a complex and dynamic process involving the interplay of anatomical, physiological, hormonal, psychological, emotional and cultural factors that impact desire, arousal, lubrication and climax. Although desire is biologically driven based upon internal hormonal environment, many psychological and emotional factors play into it as well. Arousal requires erotic and/or physical stimulation that results in increased pelvic blood flow, which causes genital engorgement, vaginal lubrication and vaginal anatomical changes that allow the vagina to accommodate an erect penis. The ability to climax depends on the occurrence of a sequence of physiological and emotional responses, culminating in involuntary rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.

Sexual research conducted by Masters and Johnson demonstrated that the primary reaction to sexual stimulation is vaso-congestion (increased blood flow) and the secondary reaction is increased muscle tension.  Orgasm is the release from the state of vaso-congestion and muscle tension.

Pelvic Muscle Strength Matters

Strong and fit pelvic muscles optimize sexual function since they play a pivotal role in sexuality. These muscles are highly responsive to sexual stimulation, reacting by contracting and increasing blood flow to the pelvis, thus enhancing arousal.  They also contribute to sensation during intercourse and provide the ability to clench the vagina and firmly “grip” the penis. Upon clitoral stimulation, the pelvic muscles reflexively contract.  When the pelvic muscles are voluntarily engaged, pelvic blood flow and sexual response are further intensified.

The strength and durability of pelvic contractions are directly related to orgasmic potential since the pelvic muscles are the “motor” that drives sexual climax. During orgasm, the pelvic muscles contract involuntarily in a rhythmic fashion and provide the muscle power behind the physical aspect of an orgasm. Women capable of achieving “seismic” orgasms most often have very strong, toned, supple and flexible pelvic muscles. The take home message is that the pleasurable sensation that you perceive during sex is directly related to pelvic muscle function. Supple and pliable pelvic muscles with trampoline-like tone are capable of a “pulling up and in” action that puts bounce into your sex life…and that of your partner!

Factoid:  “Pompoir” is the Tamil, Indian term applied to extreme pelvic muscle control over the vagina. With both partners remaining still, the penis is stroked by rhythmic and rippling pulsations of the pelvic muscles. “Kabbazah” is a parallel South Asian term—translated as “holder”—used to describe a woman with such pelvic floor muscle proficiency.  

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

As sexual function is optimized when the pelvic floor muscles are working properly, so sexual function can be compromised when the pelvic floor muscles are not working up to par (pelvic floor muscle “dysfunction”).  Weakened pelvic muscles can cause sexual dysfunction and vaginal laxity (looseness), undermining sensation for the female and her partner. On the other hand, overly-tensioned pelvic muscles can also compromise sexual function because sexual intercourse can be painful, if not impossible, when the pelvic muscles are too taut.

Vaginal childbirth is one of the key culprits in causing weakened and stretched pelvic muscles, leading to loss of vaginal tone, diminished sensation with sexual stimulation and impaired ability to tighten the vagina.

Pelvic organ prolapse—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which one or more of the pelvic organs fall into the vaginal space and at times beyond the vaginal opening—can reduce sexual gratification on a mechanical basis from vaginal laxity and uncomfortable or painful intercourse. The body image issues that result from vaginal laxity and pelvic prolapse are profound and may be the most important factors that diminish one’s sex life. As the pelvic floor loses strength and tone, there is often an accompanying loss of sexual confidence.

Urinary incontinence—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which there is urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing and physical activities (stress incontinence) or leakage associated with the strong urge to urinate (urgency incontinence or overactive bladder)—can also contribute to an unsatisfying sex life because of fears of leakage during intercourse, concerns about odor and not feeling clean, embarrassment about the need for pads, and a negative body image perception. This can adversely influence sex drive, arousal and ability to orgasm.

A healthy sexual response involves being “in the moment,” free of concerns and worries. Women with pelvic floor dysfunction are often distracted during sex, preoccupied with their lack of control over their problem as well as their perception of their vagina being “abnormal” and what consequences this might have on their partner’s sexual experience.

Pelvic Floor Training

Pelvic floor muscle training is the essence of “functional fitness,” a workout program that develops pelvic muscle strength, power and stamina. The goal is to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments that may be sexual, urinary, bowel, or involve altered support of the pelvic organs.

Many women exercise regularly but often neglect these hidden–but vitally important muscles– that can be optimized to great benefit via the right exercise regimen.  The key is to find the proper program, and for this I refer you to your source for everything Kegel: The KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

 

So Your Vagina Is Loose: Now What?

June 3, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  6/3/17

After your newborn  has used your vagina as a giant elastic waterslide (and perhaps repeated a few times), you may find that your lady parts are not quite the same.  Obstetrical “trauma” to the nether muscles (genital and pelvic muscles) and stretching of the vaginal opening can lead to permanent changes. Multiple childbirths, large babies, use of forceps for delivery, and age-related changes of the pelvic muscles and connective tissues further compound the issue.  This condition, a.k.a. vaginal laxity, is characterized by the vaginal opening being wider and looser than it should be.

recto copy

Image above of vaginal laxity in patient immediately before vaginal reconstructive surgery: rectocele (blue arrow: rectum pushing up into back wall of vagina), perineal scarring (white arrow: scarring between vagina and anus) and catheter in urethra (red arrow: channel that conducts urine)

Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci had an interesting take on male and female perspectives: “Woman’s desire is the opposite of that of man.  She wishes the size of the man’s member to be as large as possible, while the man desires the opposite for the woman’s genital parts.”

Vaginal Laxity

Vaginal looseness–sometimes to the point of gaping– is one of the most common physical changes found on pelvic exam following delivery.  This often overlooked, under-reported, under-appreciated, under-treated condition commonly occurs following pregnancy and vaginal delivery.  Not only is it bothersome to the woman dealing with the problem, but it can also lead to body image issues, decreased sexual sensation, less sexual satisfaction (for partner as well) and disturbances in self-esteem.

It is important to distinguish vaginal laxity from pelvic organ prolapse (an internal laxity in which one or more of the pelvic organs –bladder, uterus, rectum–bulge into the vagina and at times beyond the vaginal opening).  The photo above illustrates a woman with both issues.

The vagina of a woman with laxity often cannot properly “accommodate” her partner’s penis, resulting in the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it, with the end result being diminished sensation for both partners.  Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation with the clitoral shaft moving rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris.  When the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put enough traction on the inner vaginal lips, clitoral stimulation is also limited, another factor resulting in less satisfaction in the bedroom.

7 Ways to Know if You Have a Loose Vagina

  1. You cannot keep a tampon in.
  2. During sexual intercourse, your partner’s penis often falls out.
  3. Your vagina fills with water while bathing.
  4. You have vaginal flatulence, passage of air trapped in the vagina.
  5. When examining yourself in the mirror you see the vaginal lips parted and internal tissues exposed (it should be shut like a clam shell).
  6. Sexual intercourse is less satisfying for you and your partner and noticeably different than before childbirth.
  7. You have difficulty experiencing orgasm.

Means of quantitating vaginal laxity and the strength of the pelvic and vaginal muscles that are used by physicians include:

  1. Visual inspection of the vulva, which shows vaginal gaping, exposure of internal tissues and decreased distance from vagina to anus
  2. Pelvic exam while having the patient contract down upon the examiner’s fingers, using the modified Oxford scale of 0-5 (0–very weak pelvic contraction; 5–very strong pelvic contraction)
  3. Manometry, a measurement of resting pressure and pressure rise following a pelvic floor muscle contraction
  4. Dynamometry, a measurement of pelvic muscle resting and contractile forces using strain gauges
  5. Electromyography, recording the electrical potential generated by the depolarization of pelvic floor muscle fibers

On a practical basis, means #1 and #2 are usually more than sufficient to make a diagnosis of vaginal laxity

 Vaginal Laxity:  What to do?

  • Over-the-Counter Herbal Vaginal Tightening Creams: Don’t even bother. These non-regulated products can be harmful and there is no scientific evidence to support their safe and effective use.
  • Kegel Exercises, a.k.a. Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: Worth the bother!  This non-invasive, first-line, self-help form of treatment should be exploited before considering more aggressive means. Increasing the strength, power and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles has the potential for improving vaginal laxity as well as sexual function, urinary and bowel control and pelvic prolapse.
  • Use it or lose it: Stay sexually active to help keep the pelvic and vaginal muscles toned.  Although you might think that sexual intercourse might worsen the problem by further stretching the vagina, in actuality it will help improve the problem and increase vaginal tone.
  • Energy-Based Devices: There are a host of new technologies that are being used for “vaginal rejuvenation” in an office setting. These are typically lasers or units that use targeted radio-frequency energy that are applied to the vaginal tissues. One such device uses mono-polar radio-frequency therapy with surface cooling.  It works by activating fibroblasts (the type of cells that makes fibers involved in our structural framework) to produce new collagen stimulating remodeling of vaginal tissue. The vaginal surface is cooled while heat is delivered to deeper tissues.                                                                                                                                                               Note: The jury is still not out on the effectiveness of these procedures. What is for certain is that they are costly and not covered by medical insurance.  Anecdotally, I have a few patients who claim that they have had significant improvement in vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause after undergoing laser treatment.      
  • Vaginoplasty/Levatorplasty/Perineorrhaphy/Perineoplasty: This is medical speak for the surgical reconstructive procedures that are performed to tighten and narrow the vaginal opening and vaginal “barrel.”  The goal is for improved aesthetic appearance, sexual friction, sexual function and self-esteem. These procedures are often performed along with pelvic reconstructive procedures for pelvic organ prolapse, particularly for a rectocele, a condition in which the rectum prolapses into the bottom vaginal wall.

 The term vaginoplasty derives vagina and plasty meaning “repair.”  The term levatorplasty derives from levator (another name for deep pelvic floor muscles) and plasty meaning “repair.” Perineorrhaphy derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and –rrhaphy, meaning “suture,” while the term perineoplasty derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and plasty meaning “repair.”

Within the perineum are the superficial pelvic floor muscles (bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus and transverse perineal muscles) and deeper pelvic floor muscles (levator ani).  Perineal muscle laxity is a condition in which the superficial pelvic floor muscles become flabby. Weakness in these muscles cause a widened and loosened vaginal opening, decreased distance between the vagina and anus, and a change in the vaginal axis such that the vagina assumes a more upwards orientation as opposed to its normal downwards angulation towards the sacral bones.

3. superficial and deep PFM

Illustration of pelvic floor muscles by artist Ashley Halsey from “The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health

The surgical reconstructive procedures referred to above narrow the relaxed vaginal opening and vaginal barrel and address cosmetic concerns. The aforementioned muscles are buttressed to rebuild the perineum, resulting in a tighter vaginal opening and vaginal barrel, increased distance from vaginal opening to anus, restoration of the proper vaginal angle and an improvement in cosmetic appearance.

public domain

Illustration above from public domain.  On left is lax vagina with incision made from point A to point B where vagina and perineum meet. On right the superficial pelvic muscles are accessed and ultimately buttressed in the midline, converting the initial horizontal incision to one that is closed vertically.

Marietta S pre-PP

Image above of lax vagina before surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission

.Mariette S 6 wk p.o. PP

Image above of lax vagina after surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

12 STEPS TO OVERCOMING “OVER-ACTIVE” BLADDER (OAB)

May 6, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  5/6/17 (my daughter’s 18th birthday!)

For most people, the urinary bladder is a cooperative and obedient organ, behaving and adhering to its master’s will, squeezing only when appropriate. However, some people have bladders that are unruly and disobedient, acting rashly and irrationally, squeezing at inappropriate times without their master’s permission. This condition is referred to as “overactive bladder” or OAB for short. This problem can occur in both women and men, although it is more common in females.

Picture1

“Gotta go,” the urinary urgency that is the hallmark of OAB

8. UUI

Image above (artist Ashley Halsey from “The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health”) illustrates a bladder contracting involuntarily, leading to urinary leakage

OAB (http://www.njurology.com/overactive-bladder/) is a common condition often due to one’s bladder contracting (squeezing) at any time without warning.  This involuntary bladder contraction can give rise to the symptoms of urgency, frequency (daytime and nighttime) and urgency incontinence. The key symptom of OAB is urinary urgency (a.k.a. “gotta go”), the sudden and compelling desire to urinate that is difficult to postpone.

Although OAB symptoms can occur without specific provocation, they may be triggered by exposure to running water, cold or rainy weather, hand-washing, entering the shower, positional changes such as arising from sitting, and getting nearer and nearer to a bathroom, particularly at the time of placing the key in the door to one’s home.

An evaluation includes a urinalysis (dipstick exam of the urine), a urine culture (test for urinary infection) if indicated, and determination of the post-void residual volume (amount of urine left in bladder immediately after emptying). A 24-hour voiding diary (record of urination documenting time and volume) is an extremely helpful tool.  Urodynamics (test of storage and emptying bladder functions), cystoscopy (visual inspection of inside of bladder), and renal and bladder ultrasound (imaging tests using sound waves) may also prove helpful.

The management of OAB is challenging, yet rewarding, and necessitates a partnership between patient and physician. Successful treatment requires a willing, informed and engaged patient with a positive attitude. Management options for OAB range from non-invasive strategies to pills to surgery. It is sensible to start with the simplest and least invasive means of treatment and progress accordingly to more aggressive and invasive treatments if there is not a satisfactory response to conservative measures.  Behavioral treatments are first-line: fluid management, bladder training, bladder control strategies, pelvic floor muscle training and lifestyle measures.  Behavioral therapies may be combined with medication(s), which are considered second-line treatment. Third-line treatments include neuromodulation (stimulating specific nerves to improve OAB symptoms) and Botox injections into the urinary bladder.

References that will help the process include the following:

Book: THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health www.TheKegelFix.com

Book: MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health www.MalePelvicFitness.com

DVD: Easy-to-use, follow-along, FDA-registered pelvic training program that includes a detailed instruction guide, an interactive DVD and digital access to the guided training routines: www.PelvicRx.com

12 Steps To Overcoming OAB

The goal of the 12 steps that follow is to re-establish control of the urinary bladder.  Providing that the recommendations are diligently adhered to, there can be significant improvement, if not resolution, of OAB symptoms.

  1. FLUID AND CAFFEINE MODERATION/MEDICATION ASSESSMENT  Symptoms of OAB will often not occur until a “critical” urinary volume is reached, and by limiting fluid intake, it will take a longer time to achieve this volume. Try to sensibly restrict your fluid intake in order to decrease the volume of urinary output. Caffeine (present in tea, coffee, colas, some energy drinks and chocolate) and alcohol increase urinary output and are urinary irritants, so it is best to limit intake of these beverages/foods.  Additionally, many foods—particularly fruits and vegetables—have hidden water content, so moderation applies here as well.  It is important to try to consume most of your fluid intake before 7:00 PM to improve nocturnal frequency. Diuretic medications (water pills) can contribute to OAB symptoms. It is worthwhile to check with your medical doctor to see if it is possible to change to an alternative, non-diuretic medication. This will not always be feasible, but if so, may substantially improve your symptoms.
  2. URGENCY INHIBITION Reacting to the first sense of urgency by running to the bathroom needs to be substituted with urgency inhibition techniques. Stop in your tracks, sit, relax and breathe deeply. Pulse your pelvic floor muscles rhythmically (see below) to deploy your own natural reflex to resist and suppress urgency.
  3. TIMED VOIDING (for incontinence) Urinating by the “clock” and not by your own sense of urgency will keep your bladder as empty as possible. By emptying the bladder before the critical volume is reached (at which urgency incontinence occurs), the incontinence can be controlled.  Voiding on a two-hour basis is usually effective, although the specific timetable has to be tailored to the individual in accordance with the voiding diary.  Such “preemptive” or “defensive” voiding is a very useful technique since purposeful urinary frequency is more desirable than incontinence.
  4. BLADDER RETRAINING (for urgency/frequency) This is imposing a gradually increasing interval between voids to establish a more normal pattern of urination. Relying on your own sense of urgency often does not give you accurate information about the status of your bladder fullness.  Urinating by the “clock” and not by your own sense of urgency will keep your voided volumes more appropriate. Voiding on a two-hour basis is usually effective as a starting point, although the specific timetable has to be tailored to the individual, based upon the voiding diary.  A gradual and progressive increase in the interval between voiding can be achieved by consciously delaying urinating.  A goal of an increase in the voiding interval by 15-30 minutes per week is desirable.  Eventually, a return to more acceptable voiding intervals is possible.  The urgency inhibiting techniques mentioned above are helpful with this process.
  5. BOWEL REGULARITY Avoidance of constipation is an important means of helping control OAB symptoms. Because of the proximity of the rectum and bladder, a full rectum can put pressure on the bladder, resulting in worsening of urgency, frequency and incontinence.
  6. PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLE TRAINING (PFMT)  *All patients need to understand the vital role of the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) in inhibiting urgency and frequency and preventing urge leakage.  PFMT voluntarily employs the PFM to help stimulate inhibitory reflexes between the pelvic floor muscles and the bladder.  Rhythmic pulsing of the PFM can inhibit an involuntary contraction once it starts and prevent an involuntary contraction before it even begins. Initially, one must develop an awareness of the presence, location, and nature of the PFM and then train these muscles to increase their strength and tone.  These are not the muscles of the abdominal wall, thighs or buttocks.  A simple means of recognizing the PFM for a female is to insert a finger inside her vagina and squeeze the PFM until the vagina tightens around her finger.  A simple means of identifying the PFM for either gender is to start urinating and when about half completed, to abruptly stop the stream. It is the PFM that allows one to do so. It is important to recognize the specific triggers that induce urgency, frequency or incontinence and prior to exposure to a trigger or at the time of the perceived urgency, rhythmic pulsing of the PFM–“snapping” the PFM several times–can either preempt the abnormal bladder contraction before it occurs or diminish or abort the bladder contraction after it begins.  Thus, by actively squeezing the PFM just before and during these trigger activities, the urgency can be diminished and the urgency incontinence can often be avoided.

oab

Schematic diagram above illustrates the relationship of the contractile state of the bladder muscle to the contractile state of the PFM. Note that a voluntary PFM contraction can turn off an involuntary bladder contraction (+ symbol denotes contraction; – symbol denotes relaxation)

7. LIFESTYLE MEASURES: HEALTHY WEIGHT, EXERCISE, TOBACCO CESSATION   The burden of excess pounds can worsen OAB issues by putting pressure on the urinary bladder. Even a modest weight loss may improve OAB symptoms.  Pursuing physical activities can help maintain general fitness and improve urinary control. Lower impact exercises–yoga, Pilates, cycling, swimming, etc.–can best help alleviate pressure on the urinary bladder by boosting core muscle strength and tone and improving posture and alignment. The chemical constituents of tobacco constrict blood vessels, impair blood flow, decrease tissue oxygenation and promote inflammation, compromising the bladder, urethra and PFM.  By eliminating tobacco, symptoms of OAB can be improved. 

8.  BLADDER RELAXANT MEDICATIONS A variety of medications are useful to suppress OAB symptoms. It may take several trials of different medications or combinations of medications to achieve optimal results. The medications include the following: Tolterodine (Detrol LA), Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), Transdermal Oxybutynin (Oxytrol patch), Oxybutynin gel (Gelnique), Trospium (Sanctura), Solifenacin (Vesicare), Darifenacin (Enablex) and Fesoterodine (Toviaz).  The most common side effects are dry mouth and constipation.  These medications cannot be used in the presence of urinary or gastric retention or uncontrolled narrow-angle glaucoma.  The newest medication, Mirabegron (Myrbetriq), has a different mechanism of action and fewer side effects.

9.  BIOFEEDBACK This is an adjunct to PFMT in which electronic instrumentation is used to relay feedback information about your PFM contractions.  This can enhance awareness and strength of the PFM.

10.  BOTOX TREATMENT This is a simple office procedure in which Botox is injected directly into the bladder muscle, helping reduce OAB symptoms by relaxing those areas of the bladder into which it is injected. Botox injections generally will last for six to nine months and are covered by Medicare and most insurance companies.

11.  PERCUTANEOUS TIBIAL NERVE STIMULATION (PTNS) This is a minimally invasive form of neuromodulation in which a tiny acupuncture-style needle is inserted near the tibial nerve in the ankle and a hand-held stimulator generates electrical stimulation with the intent of improving OAB symptoms. This is done once weekly for 12 weeks.

12.  INTERSTIM This is a more invasive form of neuromodulation in which electrical impulses are used to stimulate and modulate sacral nerves in an effort to relieve the OAB symptoms. A battery-powered neuro-stimulator (bladder “pacemaker”) provides the mild electrical impulses that are carried by a small lead wire to stimulate the selected sacral nerves that affect bladder function.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Are You “Cliterate”? (Do You Have A Good Working Knowledge Of The Clitoris?)

March 18, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  3/18/17

The clitoris—possessed by all female mammals—is a complex and mysterious organ. Even the word itself–and the way it rolls off the tongue as it is pronounced–is a curiosity.  Many men (and women as well) are relatively clueless (“uncliterate”) about this unique and fascinating female anatomical structure.  The greatest challenge of achieving cliteracy is that so much of this mysterious lady part is subterranean–in the nether regions, unexposed, under the surface, obscured from view–and therefore difficult to decipher.  

The intention of this entry is to enable understanding of what is under the (clitoral) hood, literally and figuratively. Regardless of gender, a greater knowledge and appreciation of the anatomy, function and nuances of this special and unique biological structure will most certainly prove to be useful.  In general terms, proficiency and command of geography and landmarks on the map is always helpful in directing one to arrive at the proper destination.  Consider this entry a clitoral GPS.

 

Klitoriswurzel,_Klitoris,_Klitorisschenkel

The clitoris is mostly subterranean–what you see is merely the “tip of the iceberg.”  The white lines indicate the “rest of the iceberg.”

(By Remas6 [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Mountainous and Hilly Female Terrain

The vulva (the external part of the female genital anatomy) consists of hilly terrain. It is well worth learning the “lay of the land” so that it can be traversed with finesse. The mons pubis (pubic mound) is the rounded and prominent mass of fatty tissue overlying the pubic bone, derived from the Latin “mons,” meaning “mountain.” Located beneath the lower part of the mons is the upper portion of the clitoris.  The word clitoris derives from the Greek “kleitoris,” meaning “little hill.”

Mons_pubis_jpg

Lower abdomen, mons pubis and pudendal cleft

By Wikipicturesxd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Epicenter of Female Sexual Anatomy

The clitoris is arguably the most vital structure involved with female sexual response and sexual climax. It is the only human organ that exists solely for pleasure, the penis being a multi-tasker with reproductive and urinary roles as well as being a sexual organ. However, I would argue that nature had much more than simply pleasure in mind when it came to the design of the clitoris, with the ultimate goal being reproduction and perpetuation of the species.  If sex was not pleasurable, there would little incentive for it and pregnancies would be significantly fewer. Think about non-human mammals—what would be their motivation to reproduce if sex were not pleasurable? (Male chimps and female chimps do not sit down together and plan on having a family!)  So, pleasure is the bait and reproduction is the switch in nature’s clever scheme.

The clitoris, like the penis, consists largely of spongy erectile tissue that is rich in blood vessels. The presence of this vascular tissue results in clitoral swelling with sexual arousal, causing clitoral fullness and ultimately a clitoral “erection.”

Penile-Clitoral_Structure

Comparison of penis (left) and clitoris (right), each largely composed of spongy, vascular, erectile tissue

By Esseh (Self-made. Based on various anatomy texts.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Clitoral size is highly variable from woman to woman—certainly as much as penile size. A very large clitoris can resemble a very small penis.

Interesting trivia: The female spotted hyena, squirrel monkey, lemur, and bearcat all have in common a very large clitoris referred to as a “pseudo-penis.”  When erect, it appears like the male’s penis and is used to demonstrate dominance over other clan members.  

The most sensitive part of the clitoris is the “head,” which is typically about the size of a pencil eraser and located at the upper part of the vulva where the inner lips meet. Despite its small size, the head has a dense concentration of nerve endings, arguably more than any other structure in the body. Like the penis, the head is covered with a protective hood known as the “foreskin.”

The head is really the “tip of the iceberg” because the vast majority of the clitoris is unexposed and internal. The clitoris (again like the penis) has a “shaft” (although it is internal) that extends upwards towards the pubic bone. The extensions of the shaft are the wishbone-shaped “legs” that turn downwards and attach to the pubic arch as it diverges on each side. Beneath the legs on either side of the vaginal opening are the clitoral “bulbs,” sac-shaped erectile tissues that lie beneath the outer vaginal lips. With sexual stimulation, these bulbs become full, plumping and tightening the vaginal opening.

One can think of the legs and bulbs as the roots of a tree, hidden from view and extending deeply below the surface, fundamental to the support and function of the clitoral shaft and head above, comparable to the tree’s trunk and branches.

vulva

Image above by OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30148635, no changes made to original

The Clitoral Response

With sexual arousal and stimulation, the clitoris engorges, resulting in thickening of the clitoral shaft and swelling of the head. With increasing clitoral stimulation, a clitoral erection occurs and ultimately the clitoral shaft and head withdraw from their overhanging position (clitoral “retraction”), pulling inwards against the pubic bone (like a turtle pulling its head in).

Interesting trivia: The blood pressure within the clitoris at the time of a clitoral erection is extremely high, literally at hypertensive (high blood pressure) levels. This is largely on the basis of the contractions of the pelvic floor/perineal muscles that surround the clitoral legs and bulbs and force pressurized blood into the clitoral shaft and head. The only locations in the body where hypertension is normal and, in fact, desirable are the penis and clitoris.

Why The Pelvic Floor Muscles Are Vital To Female Sexual Health And Clitoral Function

During arousal the pelvic floor muscles help increase pelvic blood flow, contributing to vaginal lubrication, genital engorgement and the transformation of the clitoris from flaccid to softly swollen to rigidly engorged.  The pelvic floor muscles enable tightening of the vagina at will and function to compress the deep roots of the clitoris, elevating clitoral blood pressure to maintain clitoral erection. At the time of climax, they contract rhythmically.  An orgasm would not be an orgasm without the contribution of these important muscles.

 

Bulbospongiosus-Female

Bulbocavernosus muscle (pelvic floor muscle that supports and compresses the clitoral bulbs)

 

Ischiocavernosus-female

Ischiocavernosus muscle (pelvic floor muscle that supports and compresses the clitoral legs)

(Above two images are in public domain, originally from Gray’s Anatomy 1909)

During penetrative sexual intercourse, only a small percentage of women achieve enough direct clitoral stimulation to achieve a “clitoral” orgasm, as this is usually restricted to women with larger clitoral head sizes and shorter distances from the clitoris to the vagina. Depending on sexual position and angulation of penetration, the penis is capable of directly stimulating the clitoral head and shaft, typically in the missionary position when there is direct pubic bone to pubic bone contact. However, vaginal penetration and penile thrusting does directly stimulate the clitoral legs and bulbs and the thrusting motion can also put rhythmic traction on the labia, which can result in the clitoris getting pulled and massaged.

Interesting trivia: Magnetic resonance (MR) studies have shown that a larger clitoral head size and shorter distance from the clitoris to the vagina are correlated with an easier ability to achieve an orgasm.

The clitoris plays a key role in achieving orgasm for the majority of women. An estimated 70% of women require clitoral stimulation in order to achieve orgasm. Some women require direct clitoral stimulation, while for others indirect stimulation is sufficient. Only about 25% of women are capable of achieving orgasm via vaginal intercourse alone.

With increasing sexual arousal and stimulation, physical tension within the genitals gradually builds and once sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpasses a threshold, involuntary rhythmic muscular contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, the vagina, uterus and anus occur, followed by the release of accumulated erotic tension and a euphoric state. Thereafter, the genital and clitoral engorgement and congestion subside, muscle relaxation occurs and a peaceful state of physical and emotional bliss and afterglow become apparent.

Clitoral orgasms are often described as a gradual buildup of sensation in the clitoral region culminating in intense waves of external muscle spasm and release. In contrast, vaginal orgasms are described as slower, fuller, wider, deeper, more expansive and complex, whole body sensations. The truth of the matter is that all lady parts are inter-connected and work together, so grouping orgasm into “clitoral” versus “vaginal” is an arbitrary distinction. Most women report that both clitoral and vaginal stimulation play roles in achieving sexual climax, but since the clitoris has the greatest density of nerves, is easily accessible and typically responds readily to stimulation, is the fastest track to sexual climax for most women.

There is a clitoral literacy movement that is gaining momentum. Please visit:

http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/cliteracy for more information on the clitoris and this campaign to foster awareness of this curious organ.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com (much of the material from this entry was excerpted from this book)

Kegels Go Hollywood: From Ben Wa Balls To The Elvie Pelvic Trainer

February 26, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  2/26/17

I do not ordinarily compose more than one blog entry per week, but Kegels Go Hollywood presented itself and is worthy of a timely discussion.

Photo below by Ivan Bandura [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commonsoscars_for_sale_6952722855

And the Oscar goes to….

arnold-kegel-gladser-studio-1953

Arnold Kegel MD (Gladser Studio, 1953)

“Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Fifty Shades of Darker” are not my cup of tea, although I confess to having read the first book to see what all the fuss was about.  According to The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, the current “Fifty Shades of Darker” movie is lacking in thrills, “unless you count the nicely polished performance from a pair of love balls.” The movie popularizes the use of Ben Wa Balls, which apparently spend most of their time settled deeply in the vagina of female character Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).

ben-wa

 Ben Wa Balls

Included in the swag bag of high-end gifts at tonight’s Oscars is a pelvic floor training device called the “Elvie.” Manufactured in the UK, Elvie is a sophisticated wearable, egg-shaped, waterproof, flexible device inserted vaginally. Pelvic floor muscle contraction strength is measured and sent via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app on a smartphone that provides biofeedback to track progress. Five-minute workouts are designed to lift and tone the pelvic floor muscles. The app includes a game designed to keep users engaged by trying to bouncing a ball above a line by clenching their pelvic floor muscles. The carrying case also serves as a charging device. Cost is $199 (Elvie.com).

elvie

Elvie Pelvic Training Device 

I have worked with the company that manufactures Elvie and recently wrote a blog for the Elvie website on the topic of “Myths about the pelvic floor.” To access, go to:

https://www.elvie.com/blog/12-myths-about-the-pelvic-floor-with-dr-siegel

As a physician, urologist, author and pelvic floor muscle training advocate, I am quite pleased by the newfound awareness and popularity accorded pelvic floor muscle training, a highly beneficial means of improving/maintaining pelvic, sexual, urinary and bowel health–despite its popularization in Hollywood.

Benefits of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training

The vagina has its own set of intrinsic muscles (within its wall), which are further layered with the pelvic floor muscles (external to the vaginal wall). An intense pelvic floor muscle workout—albeit a pleasurable one made possible through devices like Ben Wa Balls or the Elvie—accords some real advantages to the participant. A stronger and better toned pelvic floor increases vaginal blood flow, lubrication, orgasm potential and intensity, the ability to clench the vagina as well as partner pleasure, overall increasing the potential for sexual gratification.  Of no less importance, a powerful pelvic floor also improves urinary and bowel control. Keeping the pelvic floor fit can prevent the onset of many sexual, urinary, bowel and other pelvic issues that may emerge with the aging process.

Love Balls 101

Motion-induced friction applied to the vaginal wall is one of the key factors leading to sexual pleasure.  Ben Wa Balls provide such friction and can be thought of as erotic toys as well as medical devices that are used to train the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles. When exercise can be made pleasurable—not unlike playing tennis as opposed to working out in the gym—it unquestionably provides significant advantages.

There are numerous variations in terms of Ben Wa ball size (usually one to two inches in diameter), weight, shape, composition and number of balls. Some are attached to a string, allowing tugging on the balls to add more resistance. Another type has a compressible elastic covering that can be contracted down upon. Still others vibrate. There are some upscale varieties that are carved into egg shapes from minerals such as jade and obsidian.

Ben Wall Balls are classified under the general heading of vaginal weights, devices that are placed in the vagina and require pelvic floor muscle engagement in order that they remain in position and not fall out when the user is upright, providing resistance to contract down upon.

Ben Wa balls are not unlike vaginal cones, which consist of a set of weights that are of identical shape but vary in their actual weight. Initially, one places a light cone in the vagina and stands up and walks about, allowing gravity to come into play. Pelvic floor contractions are required to prevent the cone from falling out. The intent is to retain the weighted cone for fifteen minutes twice daily to improve pelvic strength.  Gradual progression to heavier cones challenges the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to improve strength and tone. Ben Wa balls can be thought of as sexy versions of the vaginal cones.

vaginal-conesVaginal Cones

 

Sophisticated Pelvic Training Devices Like Elvie

There are many pelvic resistance devices on the market—some basic and simple, like Ben Wa balls and vaginal cones—but many newer ones are a “high tech” and sophisticated means of providing resistance, biofeedback and tracking, often via Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. More information will follow about these complex devices in future blog entries.

Bottom Line: Pelvic floor muscle training can be done with or without resistance devices like Ben Wa balls, vaginal cones, and the more sophisticated devices such as the Elvie.  The use of resistance devices adds a dimension beyond what is achievable by contracting one’s pelvic muscles without resistance (against air).  From a medical and exercise physiology perspective, muscles increase in strength in direct proportion to the demands placed upon them and resistance exercise is one of the most efficient ways to stimulate muscular and metabolic adaptation.

The slang term “pussy” is often used to connote “weak” and “ineffectual.”  Anastasia Steele’s “vagina of steel” fashioned by using Ben Wa Balls as a vaginal resistance device clearly shows that this does not have to be the case!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health http://www.TheKegelFix.com.  This book is written for educated and discerning women who care about health, well being, nutrition and exercise and enjoy feeling confident, sexy and strong.

The Kegel Fix is available in e-book format on the Amazon Kindle, iPad (Apple iBooks), Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo and in paperback, all accessible via the following website: www.TheKegelFix.com. The e-book offers discretion, is less expensive, is delivered immediately, saves the trees, has adjustable fonts, as well as numerous hyperlinks—links to other sites activated by clicking—that access many helpful resources. Enjoy!

Female Bladder Works

February 11, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   2/11/17

This entry is a brief overview of bladder anatomy and function to help you better understand the two most common forms of urinary leakage—stress urinary incontinence and overactive bladder— topics for entries that will follow for the next few weeks.  Having a working knowledge of the properties of the bladder will serve you well in being able to understand when things go awry. 

                          6. bladder

                             Drawing of the bladder and urethra by Ashley Halsey from “The Kegel Fix:                           Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health”

The bladder is a muscular balloon that has two functions—storage and emptying of urine. The stem of the bladder balloon is the urethra, the tube that conducts urine from the bladder during urination and helps store urine at all other times. The urethra runs from the bladder neck (where the urinary bladder and urethra join) to the urethral meatus, the external opening located just above the vagina.

Bladder Control Issues—More Than Just a Physical Problem

Urinary incontinence is an involuntary leakage of urine. Although not life threatening, it can be life altering and life disrupting. Many resort to absorbent pads to help deal with this debilitating, yet manageable problem. It is more than just a medical problem, often affecting emotional, psychological, social and financial wellbeing (the cumulative cost of pads can be significant). Many are reluctant to participate in activities that provoke the incontinence, resulting in social isolation, loss of self-esteem and, at times, depression. Since exercise is a common trigger, many avoid it, which can lead to weight gain and a decline in fitness. Sufferers often feel “imprisoned” by their bladders, which have taken control over their lives, impacting not only activities, but also clothing choices, travel plans and relationships.

Bladder Function 101

Healthy bladder functioning depends upon properties of the bladder and urethra. Bladder control issues arise when one or more of these go awry:

Capacity

The average adult has a bladder that holds about 12 ounces before a significant urge to urinate occurs. Problem: The most common capacity issue is when the capacity is too small, causing urinary frequency.

Elasticity

The bladder is stretchy like a balloon and as it fills up there is a minimal increase in bladder pressure because of this expansion. Low-pressure storage is desirable, as the less pressure in the bladder, the less likelihood for leakage issues. Problem: The bladder is inelastic or less elastic and stores urine at high pressures, a setup for urinary leakage.

Sensation

There is an increasing feeling of urgency as the urine volume in the bladder increases. Problem: The most common sensation issue is heightened sensation creating a sense of urgency before the bladder is full, giving rise to the frequent need to urinate. Less commonly there exists a situation in which there is little to no sensation even when the bladder is quite full (and little warning that the bladder is full), sometimes causing the bladder to overflow.

Contractility

After the bladder fills and the desire to urinate is sensed, a voluntary bladder contraction occurs, which increases the pressure within the bladder in order to generate the power to urinate. Problem: The bladder is “under-active” and cannot generate enough pressure to empty effectively, which may cause it to overflow when large volumes of urine remain in the bladder.

Timing

A bladder contraction should only occur after the bladder is reasonably full and the “owner” of the bladder makes a conscious decision to empty the bladder. Problem: The bladder is “overactive” and squeezes prematurely (involuntary bladder contraction) causing sudden urgency with the possibility of urinary leakage occurring en route to the bathroom.

Anatomical Position

The bladder and urethra are maintained in proper anatomical position in the pelvis because of the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue support. Problem: A weakened support system can cause urinary leakage with sudden increases in abdominal pressure, such as occurs with sneezing, coughing and/or exercising.

Urethra

In cross-section, the urethra has infoldings of its inner layer that give it a “snowflake” appearance. This inner layer is surrounded by rich spongy tissue containing an abundance of blood vessels, creating a cushion around the urethra that permits a watertight seal similar to a washer in a sink. The female hormone estrogen nourishes the urethra and helps maintain the seal. Problem: With declining levels of estrogen at the time of menopause, the urethra loses tone and suppleness, analogous to a washer in a sink becoming brittle, potentially causing leakage issues.

Sphincters

The urinary sphincters, located at the bladder neck and mid-urethra, are specialized muscles that provide urinary control by pinching the urethra closed during storage and allowing the urethra to open during emptying. The main sphincter (a.k.a. the internal sphincter) is located at the bladder neck and is composed of smooth muscle designed for involuntary, sustained control. The auxiliary sphincter (a.k.a. the external sphincter), located further downstream and comprised of skeletal muscle contributed to by the pelvic floor muscles, is designed for voluntary, emergency control. Problem: Damage to or weakness of the sphincters adversely affects urinary control.

The main sphincter is similar to the brakes of a car—frequently used, efficient and effective. The auxiliary sphincter is similar to the emergency brake—much less frequently used, less efficient, but effective in a pinch. The pelvic floor muscles are intimately involved with the function of the “emergency brake.”

Nerves

The seemingly “simple” act of urination is actually a highly complex event requiring a functional nervous system providing sensation of filling, contraction of the bladder muscle and the coordinated relaxation of the sphincters. Problem: Any neurological problem can adversely affect urination, causing bladder control issues.

Bladder Reflexes

A reflex is an automatic response to a stimulus, an action that occurs without conscious thought. There are three reflexes that are vital to bladder control:

Guarding Reflex: During bladder filling, the “guarding” (against leakage) pelvic floor muscles contract in increasing magnitude in proportion to the volume of urine in the bladder; this provides resistance that helps prevent leakage as the bladder becomes fuller.

Cough Reflex: With a cough, there is a reflex contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, which helps prevent leakage with sudden increases in abdominal pressure.

Pelvic Floor Muscle-Bladder Reflex: When the pelvic floor muscles are voluntarily contracted, there is a reflex relaxation of the bladder. This powerful reflex can be tapped into for those who have involuntary bladder contractions that cause urgency and urgency leakage.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.wordpress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Much of the content of this entry was excerpted from his recently published book The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health: http://www.TheKegelFix.com

He is also the author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com