When we think about wellness, self-care and health, we often think about hitting the gym, relaxing or taking some extra time for skincare. But as we strive for a healthier, more balanced version of ourselves, there’s an important question you should be asking yourself: Is my vagina living its best life?
The vagina serves critical functions but is often taken for granted and ignored when we think of self-care and improving our habits and routines for a healthier and happier life. Here are three ways women can manage their pelvic floor and vaginal health.
Priority #1: Decrease Stress
One of the first parts of the body that reacts to stress is the vagina. Yes, really. Muscular tension is a classic fight or flight response—it’s the body’s way of armouring up to protect itself. And while you’ve probably never noticed it, your pelvic floor muscles will often tense up even before your neck, shoulders, back, head or jaw.
All this stress can cause vaginal muscles to get chronically tired, cranky and tense, and that can lead to problems such as incontinence and pain during vaginal sex.
Even at the best of times, we can put unnecessary pressure (or physical stress) on our pelvic floor. When we suck in our stomach—as many of us subconsciously do as we pass a mirror or window—it causes downward pressure on our pelvic floor muscles, which means they have to work harder to hold everything in place.
So, what can you do to help your vagina live its best life? A great way to reduce tension in the vaginal muscles is self-stretching with perineal massage. This is a commonly recommended to pregnant women as preparation for childbirth, but women of all ages are discovering the benefits of releasing stress and relaxing their vagina through weekly or even daily massage.
If you have questions about perineal massage, a pelvic physiotherapist can assess whether it’s ideal for you and teach you how to do it.
Priority #2: Increase Strength
Your pelvic floor is responsible for a huge range of functions, from controlling urine and bowels to keeping your organs where they should be and stabilizing your pelvis. These muscles also play a critical role in moving fluids from your lower body and increasing blood flow in your clitoris during sex. Talk about multitasking!
It’s so important to have strong pelvic floor muscles, yet when pelvic physiotherapists ask women whether they know how to do Kegels (pelvic floor contractions) to strengthen their pelvic floor, the most common response is, “I think so, but I’m not sure.”
Here’s the thing: Your vagina doesn’t have to be a mystery box. A pelvic physiotherapist can assess how well your pelvic floor muscles contract and how strong they are, as well as endurance, reaction time and control under stress. You’ll leave with a better understanding of what you can do to get your pelvic floor muscles working at their best. And you don’t have to get to the point of accidentally peeing yourself to realize your pelvic floor could use some attention. Even if your vagina turns out to be strong and resilient, a pelvic physiotherapist can teach you how to keep it that way.
Priority #3: Better Orgasms!
While less stress and more strength are great for avoiding “accidents” and taking better care of your vagina, the side benefit is your vagina will likely return the favour by giving you better orgasms. Yes, please.
Blood flow is critical for great orgasms, and your pelvic floor muscles play a role in bringing more blood to your clitoris. As nerve endings are stimulated in your clitoris, tension starts to build in the pelvic floor muscles. This tension helps pump blood to your clitoris, making it more erect, and causing the nerve endings to become even more responsive to stimulation. By the time you orgasm, the pelvic floor muscles are involuntarily contracting in rhythm—and the greater the blood flow and the deeper the muscle contractions, the better your orgasm will be.
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Let’s not be satisfied any longer with a vagina that coasts through life doing the bare minimum. That approach doesn’t work for any body part. We shouldn’t wait until we’re diagnosed with a condition or disease to care about our pelvic floor health. Take control of your vagina’s wellness so it can be strong, sexy and living its best life.
Kate Roddy is a sports/pelvic physiotherapist and mom of two who developed the Kegel Release Curve to make perineal massage easier, so women can take control of pelvic floor self-care.
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