Control of the pelvic floor is imperative in terms of a new mom’s overall health. Childbirth can lead to a weak pelvic floor with a common incidence of urinary incontinence, leaving many women more prone to depression.
The pelvic floor muscles also have an important role to play in female orgasmic response. Simply put, orgasms go beyond reproduction. Brent Reider, President of Relevium Labs discusses his research with Dreaming of Baby, highlighting the true role of the clitoris and orgasms in a woman’s overall well-being.
Daniela: Good morning, Brent! We’re very happy to have you with us again on Dreaming of Baby. We have discussed with you the treatment of incontinence following childbirth – a conversation which, whilst being absolutely enlightening, is also one which must be had. As you rightly noted in that interview, ‘40% of women who have had vaginal births and 25% of C-Section births will experience some form of urinary incontinence’. Added to this, ‘women with urinary incontinence have a higher incidence of depression (15%) than women without urinary incontinence (9%).” It is thus apparent that control of the pelvic floor is imperative for a woman’s overall health and well-being. Nonetheless, urinary incontinence after childbirth is not the only issue that merits attention and, as author of the article entitled, “Role of Pelvic Floor Muscles in Female Orgasmic Response”, we are looking forward to what you have to share with our readers on this all too important subject. Can you let us know more about your research in this field and what led to this study?
“Role of the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Female Orgasmic Response”
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Thank you for inviting me back again. It’s a pleasure. Postpartum health is one of the best investments we can make on a personal and public health level. I design FDA Cleared Class II medical equipment (7 devices personally, including the Yarlap) and I’m a colleague of the team that designs equipment used by the National Healthcare systems of France, Germany, Scandinavia and Great Britain for postpartum care. The European Healthcare Systems have been using NMES devices for postpartum perineal re-education (a rééducation périnéale) for decades to treat the urinary incontinence that sometimes follows pelvic floor muscle strain from birthing. Pelvic floor muscle re-education includes muscle massage – NMES is clinically proven to be the most effective way to tone after childbirth because the muscles are stimulated for the correct work-rest sequence for the correct amount of time. This what I do.
In addition, I am an author and referee for medical and scientific peer review journals. During the FDA usability study for our pelvic floor NMES device, the Yarlap, we noticed that what women reported regarding their overall pelvic floor health appeared to be in agreement with the research of Dr. Beverly Whipple and the position of the World Health Organization (WHO) on women’s wellbeing. It also seemed to answer the question posed in Dr. Lisa Lloyd’s book, The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution (2006). Simply put, the female orgasm is about wellbeing, not just reproduction.
“The female orgasm is about wellbeing, not just reproduction.” Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.
The link between orgasm and your wellbeing
Daniela: That is a very interesting point to be made and it’s very positive to see that the subject of female orgasm is being addressed outside of a solely reproductive point of view. It would be great if you could elaborate further on this: what is the connection between female orgasm and wellbeing?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: The muscles of a woman’s pelvic floor are among the same muscles that contract during orgasm. Consequently, firmer tone of the pelvic floor muscles adds intensity to the muscle contractions during orgasm and enables a woman to identify, isolate, and command muscles of the pelvic floor. The tone of these muscles is integral to a woman’s continence, posture, and sexual response. Dr. Kegel observed that “sexual feeling within the vagina is closely related to muscle tone, and can be improved through muscle education and resistive exercise” (Kegel, A.H. 1952). As for posture, imagine a Gothic arch. The peak of the arch is at the base of the spine and the heels are where the arch meets the ground. All the weight of the body is carried to the ground by this musculoskeletal arch. As with any arch, there are strong forces pushing down to the base (the heels) and outward at the curve of the arch (the hips). A weak pelvic floor allows the strong forces to push outward at the hips and inward at the knees (see arch images). The muscles of the lower back try to compensate for this deflection causing lower back pain, and as the deflection becomes greater; hip, thigh and knee pain follow – and the pain may diminish mobility. As for continence, the muscles of the pelvic floor help hold organs in position and help direct the weight of the body in a musculoskeletal arch from the spine to the heels. If the muscles of the pelvic floor weaken; the organs shift, which places pressure on the bladder and results in what is commonly known as stress incontinence – leaking when you cough. Atrophied muscles can contract spasmodically causing urge incontinence or “overactive bladder.” Atrophied pelvic floor muscles may also lead to a loss of muscle control.
“Firmer tone of the pelvic floor muscles adds intensity to the muscle contractions during orgasm and enables a woman to identify, isolate, and command muscles of the pelvic floor. The tone of these muscles is integral to a woman’s continence, posture, and sexual response.” Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.
Does a weak pelvic floor affect orgasm?
Daniela: Thank you for this very detailed explanation. It’s surprising how as women we are never – or rarely – given information on this. You’ve explained how the orgasm promotes pelvic floor muscle tone. Looking at this from another viewpoint – how would a weak pelvic floor affect orgasm?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: The better toned the muscle, the more intense the feeling (Kegel, A.H. 1952). Plus, what we know about muscle memory suggests that the more a muscle is trained from practice the more responsive it is – this suggests that the more you orgasm the better you are at it. Not only is the intensity affected by muscle tone, but the better the response time. Perhaps, since the tone of these muscles is integral to a woman’s continence, posture, and sexual response, this is why a woman’s ability to orgasm continues past menopause. What is truly exciting is when a woman in her 80’s calls to report that she has regained the ability to control her pelvic floor muscles using the Yarlap hold and release. Then she says, “Ah, to be orgasmic again.” By making wellbeing the issue, new mothers have vital information to share and help educate their own mother and grandmother: it’s never too late to try pelvic floor muscle re-education using NMES. And the tone of these muscles is integral to a woman’s continence, posture and sexual response.
The better toned the muscle, the more intense the feeling (Kegel, A.H. 1952).
Orgasm after childbirth
Daniela: That’s great to know – Many moms are concerned about childbirth, specifically how this could change their sexual lives. How does childbirth affect female orgasmic response?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Childbirth will strain the muscles, but after recovery, what action she takes will have long-term effect. This is why the French, and other European Health Care systems give so much attention to postpartum re-education of the pelvic floor for muscle tone. With childbirth, the new mother becomes intimately aware of her pelvic floor muscles. She can use this new-found awareness to give care and attention to the muscles and this knowledge will empower her and improve her wellbeing, including her understanding and capabilities for achieving orgasm. Indeed, sexual intercourse is far from the exclusive pathway to female orgasm – the orgasm is not intromission specific. In this vein, numerous studies confirm stimulation of the clitoris, directly or indirectly, is the sole noncontroversial effective trigger of female orgasm.
“With childbirth, the new mother becomes intimately aware of her pelvic floor muscles. She can use this new-found awareness to give care and attention to the muscles and this knowledge will empower her and improve her wellbeing, including her understanding and capabilities for achieving orgasm.” Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.
Re-educating your pelvic floor after childbirth
Charles: You stated above that “after recovery, what action she takes will have a long-term effect.” Is there a specific impact in delaying getting to work on repairing the pelvic floor muscles? How long can an individual wait before working on their pelvic floor muscles but still not allow permanent damage to set in; if that is the case… What are the common long-term effects?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: After childbirth, ask your doctor about when it’s safe to start exercising your pelvic floor muscles. A licensed healthcare professional will always be helpful in telling you about pelvic floor muscle re-education and when it’s safe. While it’s never too late to tone the pelvic floor muscles, a new mother – and partner – do not want to let the pelvic floor muscles of the mother atrophy (aka weaken). A healthcare professional will often recommend Kegel exercises to a new mother. Unfortunately, the majority of women of any age who try to tone their pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises find it difficult to perform the exercise correctly. This is why muscle stimulation (NMES) is effective for mothers of all ages. Naturally, during exercise, your brain sends an electrical signal to your muscles telling them when to contract and when to relax. A muscle stimulation (NMES) device sends a precise electrical signal to the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen and relax effectively – in as little as 20 minutes a day. Biofeedback devices are not NMES. Muscle re-education is clinically proven to be achieved most efficiently with NMES. This is particularly true if the woman seeking pelvic floor muscle re-education has difficulty knowing and voluntarily commanding her pelvic floor contractions. Indeed, with adequate pelvic floor muscle control, virtually all mothers have the tools to become Aphrodite’s mortal surrogate, with the skills of love powerful to incite to sublime distraction.
Charles: So, if I’m understanding correctly there is a sweet spot time-wise; you have to wait a little to ensure you are healthy enough to exercise whilst not delaying too long?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: That is correct! But, even if you wait too long, you are still able to get it back. Never think it is too late.
Daniela: Thank you for clarifying, Brent. Is there any specific exercise that a woman can do during pregnancy to prepare her pelvic floor for childbirth – and thus limit the effects of the birth on her pelvic floor health?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Absolutely. She should do Kegel exercises. For maximum efficiency, she should consider using an NMES device so the correct muscles work/rest for the correct amount of time.
Childbirth and your clitoris
Daniela: Thanks; so going back to the female orgasm, before our interview you spoke with us about the clitoris. Can you elaborate on this further – that is the anatomy of the clitoris and if this can be affected at all by childbirth?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: The clitoral gland is the only visible part of an extensive clitourethrovaginal complex that runs along the pelvic floor, near the pelvic floor muscles. The clitoris is much larger than most people think and this is critical to understanding where to stimulate (see image). As the clitoris runs along the pelvic floor it divides twice: first, it branches in the direction of the hips and, second, it branches to surround the vagina on three sides, close but perhaps not touching the wall of the vagina’s cervix – in proximity to the Gräfenberg spot as identified in 1981 by Dr. John Perry and Dr. Beverly Whipple. The G spot, as it became known, is not a distinct anatomical entity but is a functional unit in arousal of the clitourethrovaginal complex. The clitoris is so robust that even if there is an anatomical change to the female genitalia, it maintains its ability to respond to stimulation causing the muscles of the pelvic floor to contract and relax in orgasmic response. Normal childbirth will not hurt it. Understanding the structure and location of the clitourethrovaginal complex suggests orgasmic births may be possible.
“The clitoris is so robust that even if there is an anatomical change to the female genitalia, it maintains its ability to respond to stimulation causing the muscles of the pelvic floor to contract and relax in orgasmic response. Normal childbirth will not hurt it.” Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.
Daniela: Thank you for this very detailed answer, Brent. You note that ‘the G spot, as it became known, is not a distinct anatomical entity but is a functional unit in arousal as the clitourethrovaginal complex.’ Can you elaborate a little more on this?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Research (Jannini) indicates the G-spot is part of and at the clitoral bulb which surrounds the vagina on three sides – close but perhaps not touching the wall of the vagina’s cervix – e.g. every woman is unique. Furthermore, women who experience multiple orgasms do so because their brains continue to receive signals from the genitals after orgasm and because the nerve pathways from the clitoris to the brain differ from those from the vagina to the brain perhaps resulting in different perceptions to stimulation. Whipple has repeatedly demonstrated that genital stimulation suppresses pain and the release of the pain-relieving oxytocin can remain in a healthy woman’s bloodstream five minutes after orgasm. Oxytocin is released in exercise and a neuropeptide involved in the encouragement of important processes in sport, encouraging exercise and may prolong it. Motivation to overcome remaining at rest is a principal factor in initiating exercise. Autonomous motivation for physical activity results in better behavioral pursuit, self-regulation, and sustainability. That is to say, “intrinsic” [autonomous] motivation, or being active for the inherent pleasure it brings, is the type of motivation most strongly associated with sustainability in exercise. Interesting note in this regard, the female orgasm can be so powerful that the woman rides on a series of contractions so pleasurable that she achieves a meditative-like state (Davidson). It has been described to me as, “like floating on a cloud.”
Daniela: Excellent, thank you for this very detailed look. To round up then, and if I understand well, the clitoris has a profound role to play in maintaining pelvic floor health as well as ensuring continence. Is this correct?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Yes, the clitoris could be regarded as nature’s conveniently located maintenance switch for a woman’s well-being via muscle tone.
“The clitoris could be regarded as nature’s conveniently located maintenance switch for a woman’s well-being via muscle tone.” Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.
Daniela: Great, thank you for the insight that you have so kindly shared with us today. On a final note, what’s that one factor moms-to-be should be keeping in mind with regards to overall pelvic floor health as well as retention of sexual feeling and well-being?
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Interesting point here, if the orgasm were for reproduction, would it not be located in a more intromission specific location. It’s not! It is well positioned for access for non-reproductive stimulation. Every indication suggests good pelvic floor muscle tone has many positive outcomes, including, continence, posture, and sexual response and that the female orgasm is part of this complex interplay of muscle tone and well-being. Enjoy your orgasm as part of that critical interrelationship.
Daniela: That is a great observation! Thank you for your time today, Brent, it’s been a very informative discussion.
Brent Reider, President Relevium Labs, Inc.: Thank you.
Would you like to regain control of your pelvic floor? Yarlap is an FDA-cleared device to tone and re-educate the muscles of a woman’s pelvic floor, by sending the signal directly to the muscle. Read more about Yarlap, here.
Brent Reider is President of Relevium Labs, Inc. manufacturers of Yarlap.