As you get older, any pressure on the bladder, such as sneezing, laughing, or jogging, or having SEX, may cause embarrassment, like leaking urine involuntarily…how unromantic! If you accidentally leak, you may have stress incontinence, which occurs when the muscles and tissue that help support the bladder become weak. This most commonly affects women in mid-life, after childbirth or when there is a drop in estrogen. It also affects both men and women during and after cancer treatment, as the nerves and muscles used to control urine flow can be affected. For men, removal of the prostate can impact the bladder’s mechanism for holding urine.
If you suffer with bladder issues, don’t despair because there is hope. Just like your hamstrings or biceps, the muscle tone of the pelvic floor can be improved. By strengthening these muscles, you can not only improve or eliminate stress incontinence, you can also improve your sexual health and responsiveness as well. By developing an awareness of these muscles, you can learn to tone them, which can help if you are experiencing vaginal dryness, difficulty maintaining arousal, painful intercourse or the inability to orgasm. A simple exercise plan for your pelvic floor is all you need.
To start your exercise plan, squeeze the muscles of the pelvic floor as if you were going to stop the flow of urine. To get the hang of it, when you go to the bathroom, try stopping the flow of urine a few times to find the muscles you need. It is not recommended that you continue to practice this way after identifying the muscles since a frequent stop of the urine flow can affect the muscles of the bladder over time. Just use it is a guideline to find the muscles. You can then do sets of 10 repetitions of squeezing and holding for 3 seconds at a time -- just as you would at the gym.
Strengthening your pelvic floor also intensifies the experience of orgasm. It will be your new favorite workout! To lessen friction, irritation and pressure during sex, be sure to use a top quality lubricant like Wet® Platinum® during foreplay and intercourse. It doesn’t absorb into the skin or get sticky like most water-based lubricants, and it will last for hours without needing to re-apply.
By Madeleine M Castellanos, MD