As a Pelvic Floor PT, I’ve always been hesitant about vaginal weights. Working with a mainly pelvic pain population with overly tight pelvic floors, weights were never on my radar. But after the birth of my first daughter, I experienced the awful empty feeling down south, and the sensation that everything was going to fall out started getting me more interested.
I was doing my kegel pelvic floor exercises, but honestly kept forgetting. Plus, they were boring. Then I came across a research article that showed vaginal weights to be just as effective as daily kegels for postpartum moms. The moms just inserted the weight for 10-15 min a day while continuing to live their life. Within 12 weeks, they had significantly stronger pelvic floors and improved incontinence. Weights have also been shown to improve prolapse symptoms and sexual function. I immediately purchased a set.
Vaginal weights are typically cone, ball or teardrop-shaped and designed to be inserted into the vagina just like a tampon. When inserted, these smooth weights are held in place by an automatic contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. They typically come in sets of progressively heavier weights equipped with strings for easy removal. Over time, the muscles are strengthened simply by keeping the weight from falling out.
Since I’ve started using them, I’m now a huge proponent. Here’s why:
Moms are busy and often have a hundred things floating through their mind. Remembering to do kegels is at the bottom of the list. Inserting a weight and then continuing to get things done is a great way to take the thinking out of strengthening. For some moms, weights are a far more realistic way to strengthen and start connecting to their body again.
There are two types of muscle fibers in our body: Fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch muscles are our main power drivers and kick on quickly. Slow-twitch fibers are low-level endurance muscles that help with posture and maintaining baseline functions. Our pelvic floor consists of 80% slow-twitch fibers, so strengthening this group of muscles should focus on improving endurance. Typical kegel protocols, however, mostly focus on repetitive quick flicks. Weights are different. If you’re able to hold in the weight without having to actively squeeze, the low load will naturally challenge the endurance and stability of your muscles. You don’t have to think about it. I call that a win!
“Am I doing kegels correctly” is a question I get all the time. The nice thing about weights is that you don’t have to think about doing it the right way. Does it stay in? Great, then there’s nothing else you need to think about. If you want to do kegels around the weight, now you have something tangible to squeeze around. That feedback can be very helpful in improving the quality of your active contraction.
Weights have a clear progression that kegels don’t. Yes, you can always do more kegels, but improving the weight that you can lift only comes from practice. You can also increase the challenge by doing harder activities while the weight is in. If you continue to experience incontinence with a specific activity, you can use the weight to strengthen while breaking down the activity into smaller tasks. For example, if you leak while running, you can insert a weight and practice single leg hops while trying to keep the weight from falling out.
How do I use them?
When you get your weight make sure to read the instructions. Before inserting the weight, wash your hands and the weight. If needed, place a small amount of water-based lubricant on the weight so that it slides in easier. Too much lubricant may make it harder for it to stay in. Don’t use oil or silicone-based lubricant as it can hurt the material of the weight. You can read more info on lubricants here.
Most weights come in a set. Start with the lowest weight and work your way up. You should choose a weight that stays in your vagina without you having to actively squeeze to keep it there. Once you select the weight, insert it into the vagina just as you would a tampon.
Start out with keeping the weight inserted for 10-15 min a day while continuing to live your busy mom life. Some studies recommend twice a day for 3-4 days a week. Every 2 weeks try the next heavier weight to see if you’re ready to move on. If it falls out easily, no worries! Just stick with the weight you’re on for another 1-2 weeks.
Vaginal weights need to be cleaned after use. It’s recommended to wash them with warm water and mild soap. Never scrub the weights as it can create scratches in the surface for bacteria to grow.
Are vaginal weights right for me?
First off, you need to be cleared by your midwife/OB for penetrative sex. If you’re not cleared for sex, you shouldn’t be inserting anything into your vagina.
Nothing is one-size-fits-all, and that includes vaginal weights. If you have a tight pelvic floor, weights can make that worse. Signs of a tight pelvic floor include: constipation, pelvic pain, tailbone pain, pain with intercourse and a stop-and-go urine stream. If you suspect pelvic floor tightness, you should see a Pelvic Floor PT for an evaluation. You can find one here.
If you are pregnant or have any postpartum health complications, you should consult with a healthcare provider before using vaginal weights. A healthcare provider can help determine if they are appropriate for you and can provide guidance on how to use them properly. You also shouldn’t use weights during any active vaginal infection, with a high-grade prolapse or if they cause pain.