Good Vibrations Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen: IUDs and Kegel Balls

Are there risks to having an IUD and using Kegel balls? I’ve been told I can’t use a DivaCup because of the suction. Thoughts?
— Scared of the Suction

 
Because this is a medical question (the IUD is a medical device, even though Kegel balls are not necessarily used or obtained for medical reasons), the first thing I’m going to do is defer to your doctor. However, many doctors might have informed thoughts on menstrual cups — also a somewhat medicalized device, in our culture at least — who will not have learned anything about Kegel balls in their assorted variations. Pelvic floor experts know all about them, and sex therapists and sexologists probably will too — but because doctors get little or no education about pleasure devices, if your doctor seems to know too little about this, hopefully I can help a bit.

Interestingly, I just checked the DivaCup site and the warning on their site doesn’t out-and-out prohibit using the two items together — just cautions users to insert the cup carefully and to beware of suction when it’s removed. The removal technique most web sources encourage is to break the suction with a finger before pulling on the cup to remove it. The cup is supposed to sit lower in the vaginal canal than the strings of an IUD would be likely to reach, but that would depend, in individual cases, on how long those strings were trimmed when the IUD was inserted, and also might have to do with a person’s individual anatomy — we’re not, of course, all built exactly the same. Other brands of menstrual cup will likely present the same set of issues as the DivaCup.

So: besides the question of suction, it depends more than anything on whether the IUD has protruding strings and how long they are. I did some research for a question a while back from a man who could feel the sensation of his female partner’s strings on his penis during intercourse — depending on their length, they can poke. If they’re not trimmed fairly short or don’t curl around the cervix, i.e. if they protrude a distance into the vaginal canal, I’d be cautious about Kegel balls, particularly doing anything rowdy with them (some people use them during intercourse or use their fingers to reach in and press them more strongly into the G-spot — that’s the kind of rowdy play I mean). If they are pretty short IUD strings, and/or if the balls are being used for Kegels alone (a somewhat more calm usage) and not being moved further up the vaginal canal then they’d ordinarily go, it should be fine.

Finally, what about Kegel balls and suction? Well, menstrual cups rely on suction to collect the flow and to keep it where it is til the user wants to remove the cup. They’re designed to look something like an opening flower, and the flared-out upper lip comes in contact with the vaginal walls and, ideally, stays put. They’re also left in the vagina a good deal longer than Kegel balls would ordinarily be. The larger the balls, the greater the chance that some suction might be part of your experience in using them — but remember the DivaCup removal technique with Kegel balls, too — if there IS any suction, break it with your finger before pulling the balls out. Using them with lubricant will also help prevent a seal from developing, through won’t prevent suction completely.

By the way, I answered a version of this question here with more detail (and taking into account the poor fellow whose penis was being poked by his partner’s IUD strings).

Also… Interwebs to the rescue! Here are a few extra interesting thoughts from the Teeming Millions, as Cecil Adams calls them.

“I was advised to use the smartballs versus the traditional ben wa’s, because the traditional balls don’t have strings so you either have to push them out or dig them out with a finger, which is where any danger of dislodging the IUD lies.”

“I *love* my smartballs! They’re fantastic & there is no way to get caught on your strings (assuming they’ve curled around your cervix like mine have).”

“I used ben wa balls only after my strings were cut short.”

Find Smartballs and other Kegel Toys at Good Vibrations.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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