Female pelvic floor muscles need to be exercised more, not less, to ensure that they are able to do the work they need to during and after sexual activity, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University.
The researchers say the findings, published online today in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, could have implications for female sexual health.
“This is a really important finding, as we know that sexual function is a major factor in women’s quality of life, and so women who are more active during their periods need to get stronger pelvic floor, as well as be more able to control their menstrual cycles,” said study co-author Laura T. McBride, assistant professor of gynecology and reproductive sciences at Harvard Medical College.
Women’s sexual health is in the spotlight, and it has been a source of concern for years.
Women who have been sexually active and have a history of pelvic floor problems may experience more pain during their cycles, according, to the National Institutes of Health, because the muscles in their pelvis are stretched more than those in men’s.
“It’s really hard for us to understand how this could happen in women,” said McBride.
“There are so many factors that may be at play, and there are so few studies that have looked at it.”
In a study of 2,000 women who participated in a pelvic floor program, McBride and her colleagues found that women who were more active, had better pelvic floor health, and had lower pelvic floor pain during sexual activity reported more frequent intercourse and higher levels of orgasm in the future.
They also found that these changes were linked to a decrease in the number of STIs and the occurrence of recurrent urinary tract infections.
The pelvic floor exercises that McBride recommends are stretching and pelvic floor strengthening exercises, called pelvic floor rollouts, which help the muscles of the pelvic floor to contract, which is essential for women to be able to perform pelvic floor work during sex.
Women can also get a pelvic massage at home or on the go, or use a pelvic weight belt, which has been shown to reduce pelvic floor pressure.
For a more complete description of the research, go to: http://www.nejm.org/doi/abs/10.1016/j.nebmc.2015.08.021#ixzz2mFtHfYgQ