Including what they are, what you should do with them, and which ones to try for your needs.
Ben Wa balls are these little insertable spheres make appearances in erotic books, sexy shows, and steamy movies and are basically a sex shop staple. But while Ben Wa balls might seem simple, there’s much more to them what you saw in Fifty Shades of Grey. (Read: the iconic scene where Anastasia Steele, wide-eyed with panic, asks Christian if he’s going to put the Ben Wa balls in her butt. Relatable!)
Ben Wa balls are insertable weights that go inside the vagina to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (also called PC muscles). Ob-gyn Dr. Nita Landry, cohost of The Doctors, explains that when you insert Ben Wa balls into your vagina, your pelvic muscles work to hold them in place. And while they were originally designed to rebuild strength and support lost in PC muscles over time, more and more people started using them as sex toys due to the stimulation they provide on the anterior vaginal wall, which is full of sensitive nerve endings, says ob-gyn Candace Howe, MD, who compares the added weight of these balls to what it would be like using free weights on other parts of the body.
TL;DR: If you’re curious about Ben Wa balls, you’ve come to the right place. This beginner’s guide will answer everything you ever wanted to know about your new favorite sexcessory.
What’s the difference between Ben Wa balls and Kegel balls?
Ben Wa balls are also often known as Kegel balls, and although people tend to use the words interchangeably, experts usually use “Kegel” for medical or strengthening purposes and “Ben Wa” for sexual pleasure, explains erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, Taylor Sparks.
Is there any medical reason to use them?
Even though Ben Wa balls can be a fun challenge, you don’t really medically need to use them unless a doctor tells you otherwise. In fact, you’ve probably exercised your pelvic floor muscles without even knowing it. “Any core-strengthening exercises that work the obliques, transversus, and rectus abdominal muscles along with the lower back and upper thighs—such as lunges, crunches, bends, and leg lifts, to name a few—can help strengthen the levator muscles and pelvic floor,” says Dr. Howe.
But Dr. Howe says there may be some benefits to using them after childbirth, for people with urinary leakage, or for people who have suffered other pelvic trauma that has caused their PC muscles to weaken over time because they can help give “focus and directed intention to exercises designed to rebuild that support and strength.” If this sounds like you, talk to your doctor to determine the best routine.
Can they, uh, make your vagina tighter?
Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t need to worry about how “tight” your vagina is. I don’t care if you’ve given birth or how many people you’ve slept with—the whole “tight vagina” thing is something to never ever worry about. Seriously.
But if you’re one of the many people interested in trying Ben Wa balls to restrengthen your PC muscles after giving birth, know that they can help but they’re not completely necessary. Doing any Kegel exercises after birth properly can, once again, accomplish the same objectives.
Sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, sexpert for Lovers sexual wellness brand and retailer, says people who might pee a little when they sneeze or experience some form of vaginal prolapse tend to get the most out of Kegel-ball-induced vaginal workouts. But are they 100 percent necessary? Def not.
How far up do they go?
You’d put Kegel balls or Ben Wa balls about as far up as you would a tampon, says Sparks. (And don’t worry, they’re not going to go farther than they’re supposed to.)
“You want to put them in deep enough where you can ‘grip’ them with your pelvic walls to keep them from falling out,” explains Sparks. It’s also always a good idea to use lube when inserting them. And if for some reason they keep falling out, Stewart suggests trying a lighter weight to see what feels best.
Can you walk around with Kegel balls or Ben Wa balls in?
Public health practitioner Janielle Bryan says not only is it okay to do, but walking around with Kegel balls inserted might actually help further strengthen your pelvic floor too. “By standing upright, you’ll contract your muscles to withstand the weight of the balls and the gravitational pull,” Bryan explains. “Just remember, start with smaller weights and increase the size gradually.”
Are there any risks?
It is possible to go overboard with Ben Wa balls. Ob-gyn Sherry Ross, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, says leaving them inside the vagina for too long can stress the pelvic floor muscles and cause vaginal infections, so make sure you’re cleaning them with a vagina-friendly, fragrance-free soap and warm water after each use.
Additionally, Rachel Gelman, physical therapist and founder of Pelvic Wellness & Physical Therapy, suggests relaxing your pelvic floor after exercising it, just like you’d rest after any other workout. Clinical sexologist Valerie Poppel, PhD, cofounder of the Swann Center, says to start wearing the balls for about five minutes to test them out before working your way up to longer training sessions. If you feel pain, discomfort, or notice any unusual discharge along the way, Poppel says to stop using the balls immediately and see your doc.
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