What is the PC muscle?
There is a band of muscles stretching from your pubic bone in front and extending back between your legs to your coccyx bone in the back. Along the way, this sling of muscles surround the sphincter of your bladder, your vaginal opening and the sphincter of your anus. These muscles are clinically known as the Pubococcygeus muscles, or more commonly, the PC muscle. To talk about the PC muscle may be an oversimplification, as there are actually several muscles making up the pelvic floor.
Many younger women have been introduced to their PC muscle during a pregnancy or postpartum, as these are the muscles that women are advised to exercise to restore muscle tone following childbirth. Many older women have been introduced to the PC muscle because these are the muscles that are exercised to correct the condition known as urinary incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine when coughing, sneezing, etc.).
In fact, the exercise of this PC muscle as a medical treatment for urinary incontinence was proposed in 1950 by surgeon Arnold Kegel, for whom the exercises have been named.
The Kegel exercises
In 1952, Dr Kegel published a report claiming that the women doing the exercises were becoming more easily, more frequently and more intensely orgasmic! These are the muscles that contract rhythmically during orgasm in both males and females. It is not surprising, therefore, that sex therapists have emphasized the importance of these pelvic floor muscles because of their location around the vaginal opening and because of their involvement in the orgasmic reflex. Thirty years after Dr Kegel’s article, sex therapist Bryce Britton wrote a book entitled “The Love Muscle”, calling her publication “Every Woman’s Guide to Intensifying Sexual pleasure.”
Now about 50 years after Dr Kegel made his “discovery” and after several decades of “prescribing” the Kegel exercises as a component in teaching women to become orgasmic (or more easily orgasmic), what can we say about “Kegeling the love muscle?”
We can say that doing the exercises will tone up the sphincter of the bladder and may slightly tighten the muscles around the opening of the vagina. We can assume that a well – toned muscle will contract more powerfully than a flabby muscle … hence the likelihood of slightly stronger orgasms. We can report that some women squeeze their PC muscles, force blood down into their genital tissue and turn themselves on. A very small minority of women might even be able to bring themselves to orgasm exclusively with pelvic floor contractions. It is safe to say that a woman can add novelty to a sexual encounter by voluntarily squeezing around her partner’s penis … maybe fun for her, probably fun for him.
What can most confidently be said about the entire “PC controversy” is that in doing Dr Kegel’s exercises, a woman gets in closer contact with her pelvis, takes ownership of her internal and external genitalia, strengthens the muscles that contract during orgasm and makes an investment in her life long urinary control!
How to get started
In getting started with the Kegel exercise of the PC muscles, the first task for some women is to locate them. The standard and best advice for findings the muscles is to do so when urinating. Sitting on the toilet with legs slightly spread, try to interrupt the flow of urine without bringing your legs together. Stop and start the flow, trying to sense those muscles that are involved. Once you can control the flow of your urine and can also find and squeeze when not the toilet, you have identified this band of important pelvic floor muscles.
Remember, they are not located in your abdomen, nor are they in your thighs! Try to isolate the muscles so you can tighten them without flexing your “abs” and without putting tension in your legs. It may take time to fine tune your ability to find, isolate and contract the muscles, so do not become discouraged if you have difficulty at first.
Once you know you have found the PC muscles, you will find that you can flex them (the Kegel exercise)almost any time and without being noticed if there are others around you. Doing a series of Kegel exercises each day in the course of typical activities is most helpful. For women who drive or ride to and from work each day, a practical plan is to do a series of contractions at each red light encountered, or at each petrol station passed, or some such reminder. While watching TV, squeeze your PC muscles during each commercial. Contract the muscles and hold them tight for a slow count to five. At first you may not make it all the way to five, but keep trying. As with any muscle, the more exercises, the less effort involved in the tightening.
In addition, make time to be alone. Lie down and relax. In your mind, find those PC muscles. Then begin tightening and relaxing five times, each time holding the contraction for a slow count of five. Your goal over a period of time is to increase the number of contractions and the length of time held (although there is a limit to which the PC muscles can be tightened without automatically beginning to relax). Work at it, each time striving to improve your count. If the muscles feel tired, stop and relax for a few seconds and then start in again.
While on your back, try also to a series of quick Kegels. Tighten and relax the PC muscles as rapidly as possible …. initially five times. Relax for a minute and then do another series of these quick rapid contractions. Work to increase the number of contractions in each series and work to increase the number of series. Rest when you need to. Exercise often and add a variety of physical positions.
It has been suggested that it is helpful to pull the entire pelvic floor, imagining that you are able to draw water up into the vagina. Then bear down as though you are pushing this imaginary water out. Do this five times to start and more often as you gain strength.
Getting ready for sex
Initially you may want to do the exercises clothed (certainly those series performed on your way to work). At home, however, when you will be comfortable and will have the time, it may be helpful if you begin doing the exercise nude. Combine your Kegeling with other activities designed to increase body awareness and / or sexual sensitivity.
With a partner present and with sufficient arousal and lubrication, have your partner insert two fingers into your vagina. Once inside, your partner should open the fingers up like scissors and you take try to close them. Repeat this five times each time you do it. If you are uncomfortable with two fingers, have your partner put in just one and then curl the finger upward … you try to straighten it out! During intercourse you also have an opportunity to use those PC muscles surrounding your vaginal opening. Grip and relax, grip and relax five times saying nothing to see if your partner will acknowledge feeling your tightening around him. Have fun learning about your Pubococcygeus muscles!
(Written by sexologist Dr Elna McIntosch)
(Picture: sad woman in bed from Shutterstock)