Vaginal Boot Camp? How Pelvic Floor Exercise Can Stop Bladder Leakage and Help Sexual Function
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on June 02, 2014
A New Women's Boot Camp
We have all heard about boot camp, wherein men and women who have recently joined the United States Army, Navy or Marine Corps receive intensive basic training, which is generally short, intensive, productive and life changing.
This “boot camp" lingo has been extended to some intensive exercise routines for women wanting to get in shape and have a drill sergeant or rather exercise coach keep them in line to achieve their goals.
We salute and respect our men and women in uniform and those that undergo real military boot camp. We have affectionately referred to our new pelvic floor program, which includes new FDA approved pelvic electrical stimulator devices as “Vaginal Boot Camp." However, this "boot camp" is without all the blood, sweat, tears and separation from family and loved ones.
Remember Your Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are very important for women and you should have your women's health care provider assess your pelvic tone at the time of your pelvic exam. Women should be taught to do these exercises PRIOR to pregnancy and during and after the pregnancy. Unfortunately, many women have very weak pelvic muscles which can lead to the following:
- Urinary leakage
- Pelvic prolapse
- Decreased sexual function and trouble with achieving sexual climax (the pelvic muscles contract with climax)
Urinary Leakage not a Normal Part of Aging
Urinary leakage is a serious problem. The three types of urinary leakage are:
- Stress incontinence: involuntary leakage when one coughs or sneezes
- Urinary urge incontinence: involuntary urine leakage when one has urge to urinate, so called “overactive bladder"
- The dreaded and common mixed urinary leakage: the lucky lady that has both stress incontinence and urinary urge incontinence.
Urinary leakage is embarrassing, not a normal part of aging and is very common in women - in part because of anatomy and the pelvic trauma of pregnancy and childbirth. The following can also influence the strength of the pelvic floor:
- Genetic factors
- Bowel function
- Surgical procedures
- Medical conditions
Treatment for Incontinence
There are prescription medications for overactive bladder and one over-the-counter Oxytrol patch, as well as surgical procedures for both conditions.
But many women are looking for non-invasive options and do not want to use an app to find the closest bathroom or buy liners and even adult diapers to handle the leakage. In addition, some women (and men) can suffer with fecal incontinence (from damage/weakness of the anal sphincter), which can dramatically and negatively affect one's life.
There are several devices that can use after being custom fit by a women's health specialist:
- InTone - for urge, mixed leakage and includes biofeedback.
- InToneMV - a miniversion that is used anally for men with either urinary or fecal incontinence as well as women with fecal incontinence and/or in women vaginally with smaller vaginas who have urinary leakage.
- Apex - used for stress leakage as well as in women 6 weeks postpartum who want to strengthen their pelvic floor.
- ApexM - a striped down version of InTone that delivers the same 2 currents of electrical stimulation to both strengthen pelvic floor and also relax the detrusor bladder muscle.
- Intensity device - a non-medical device which is very similar to Apex, but has clitoral vibrator. Interestingly, many women in the research studies who used InTone or Apex for urinary leakage therapy reported sexual climax during the 12 minute pelvic sessions and didn't want to give back their devices!
In the future, an IntensityMV (a smaller version) should be available as some women have foreshortened vaginas from surgery and/or radiation and need a smaller device.
For women starting “vaginal boot camp," they have to commit to 12 minutes of the pelvic electrical device stimulation daily for 6 days per week for at least 3-6 months until the underlying problem is resolved. Afterwards, women need to use the device at least weekly to keep the pelvic floor muscles well-toned.
Part of being strong, healthy and in charge is having a strong, healthy and well contracting pelvic floor! For more information, please download our free urinary incontinence guide.
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
-Holly L. Thacker, MD
"If you purchase ApexM and use it as directed for 10 minutes per day, six days per week for ninety days, and you are NOT satisfied with your results, InControl Medical will refund your full purchase price within 30 days."
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.