Monthly Archives: July 2017

elvie? yes, please. (a brief follow-up)

As noted in a couple of previous posts, I’ve been reviewing different avenues of pelvic floor strengthening. I was admittedly hesitant on the elvie for a couple of different reasons.

The first reason was the fact of Gwyneth Paltrow’s endorsement of it. As a sex educator who actually cares about clinical reliability, I share Dr. Gunter’s disdain for Paltrow and her pseudoscience products and recommendations. You can read some of those comments here, or here, or here…or see the latest fiasco where GOOP tried attacking her here, with Dr. Gunter’s response here. So I’m not particularly keen to seek out a celebrity endorsement (from anyone, really, but particularly the woo-woo bot called Gwyneth).

The second reason for hesitance was the price — elvie costs $199. Fairly, that price is steep, and comparable price-wise with products GOOP happens to sell, which are mostly luxury items geared toward those who can afford to spend $85 for a bag of stones that can be purchased in any Arizona mineral shop for $5-10 (and they do this by labeling it “Inspired by the Shaman’s medicine bag from various indigenous traditions”) — what a load of horse manure. Now it so happens that elvie is listed in GOOP, but it’s also listed in Amazon, and on its own website — all for the same price, as it happens (why anyone would purchase it via a place like GOOP is beyond me, but hey, I’m not judging others’ personal choices). Whatever. To each her own, I suppose.

For some, the notion of an app for a kegel exercise program seems a bit far-fetched (understandably), but biofeedback is helpful. Knowing that you’re doing the exercise correctly is also helpful, especially since the overwhelming majority of women simply “doing their kegels” are doing them inconsistently and/or incorrectly. Are there other, less costly options? Yes, I’ve looked into several of those, and the problems I’ve encountered are two-fold. First, they have to be done regularly. Daily, ideally (except while menstruating). Most products I’ve seen and looked into have schedules that are 15-20 minutes at a time, which seems reasonable until you consider many women dealing with conditions that bring on the need for the exercise are also dealing with curious little humans who follow them everywhere (no matter how much we love our children, having alone time is precious and rare as it is without a little human asking what we’re doing, much less aiming for imitation), not to mention slipping away from a desk for 20 minutes randomly isn’t exactly ideal (and cuts into the lunch hour significantly). That, and the general inconvenience of trying to walk around with a weighted something or other up inside (because multi-tasking is a general skill many women possess out of necessity, and the shape of the weighted inserts make the likelihood of “slipping-outage” much higher). So, inconvenience is a key reason why many women don’t make correct kegels a part of their daily routine. Second, even if there is daily availability for upwards of 20 minutes to dedicate, that dedication typically involves removal of clothing with several different devices (not to mention some seriously quirky exercises if one is pursuing something like Pompoir — which go even longer, upwards of 1-1.5 hours unclothed from the waist down).

Unlike these other options (which I’m not knocking…if a woman is dedicated to any of those things…great), the elvie is five minutes…tops. It can be done before getting out of bed in the morning (save for the brief time to wash it prior). Or at the end of the day while getting ready to go to sleep. Or on a bathroom break at work. It is literally that quick. The app provides the daily reminder, and the process is pretty straightforward. The only “downside” (if we can call it a downside) is the time required to wash the device, but this downside applies to anything we put in our vaginas…they’ve gotta be clean before and after. So that’s not really a downside, in my view, but a simple matter of hygiene that is necessary for any exerciser designed to aid with kegels. Water-based cleaners, only, folks…same stuff that is designed for toys…LELO has a great water-based cleaner that is reasonable, and can be gotten here.

I’ve noted that several articles discussing the elvie mention that it’s “cute” — which, while that is actually true, is totally irrelevant. To me, it looks like a mint green sperm with the tail rolled over itself. I suppose one could call that “cute,” but I was less interested in what it looks like than what it does, and what it does is provide real-time feedback on variety exercises performed internally with the express purpose of strengthening the vaginal muscles to improve weakness in the pelvic floor. There are several other mechanical exercisers out on the market — some more and some less pricey, but the elvie was the only one I found that actually set goals based on the initial baseline (unique to the individual), and provides comparative feedback from previous workouts immediately. For me personally, this is one of its best features, because it is this feature that I was wanting to better understand in my own exercising, where previously, it was a bit of guesswork centered around whether or not I was experiencing “sneeze pee” (which has improved, undoubtedly, but the degree of improvement was impossible to actually know).

As for an area that was difficult to discern at first was whether or not to use the elvie with the “sleeve.” This depends on the individual, of course, and some of the reviews have commented to this point. What I found was that, yes, I could perform the exercises without the sleeve…at first…but the results were inconsistent (which is, in part, because of vaginal wall weakness that develops over time, especially having vaginally delivered babies). Using the sleeve has resulted in the exercises being more efficient for me, personally, though for other women the device alone may be perfectly sufficient.

One thing that I would point out – to anyone considering purchasing any kegel exerciser – before you take even start looking into which might be better for you, make sure you talk with your gynecologist and determine if you have any sort of prolapse…even a very mild one (and often, a mild prolapse may be unnoticeable by you, and your gyn might not point it out if you’re not experiencing any discomfort or complications with it). Reason being, a kegel exerciser can aggravate an existent prolapse. I’m not saying that it will with certainty, just that it can, and I would urge anyone to discuss introducing any new exercise regimen to discuss it with their physician, if such regimen could cause possible harm. This type of exercise regimen is no different, and pelvic health matters, so be sure to check with your gynecologist first.

Reviewing “Whole Woman” — a few years after the hoopla

Hi all!

Today’s entry is a bit of a review (of sorts) of “Whole Woman,” founded by one Christine Kent who claims all sorts of studies support her particular view of postural issues being the main culprit for prolapse (uterine, bladder, and/or rectal). I recall thinking, the first time I went to her website, that if the focus is *whole* women (what does that actually mean?!), why is the sole focus on the vagina? — but to be fair, that was the feminist skeptic in me that bristles at the notion of women being reduced to our genitals (since it isn’t merely the presence of a uterus and vagina that defines women, and I loathe the TERF-iness of any outfit that dismisses transwomen for “natural reasons”). But I shelved that initial impression, and -because I’m largely overwhelmed with research- contacted a trusted friend to do some compare/contrast.

Meanwhile, during my own downtime (which is limited), I’ve been exploring other areas connected with matters of prolapse, along with urinary incontinence experienced by women post-childbirth and/or perimenopausal (with or without having had children) because of the hormonal association with decreased pelvic organ strength. What piqued my attention back to Whole Woman, though, was the ability to become a “practitioner” through Ms. Kent’s program…and the support of the program by one Dr. Christiane Northrup. I became curious about her after reviewing the application to the Whole Woman program, since sure…I thought about it, and was very curious why there aren’t any practitioners in Oregon (of all places!). Make no mistake, I’m not in any way averse to holistic care and intervention where it makes sense, but the support of a bona fide MD would seem to present legitimacy to the strange postural practices espoused by Whole Woman, right? Hmmm, then looking into Dr. Northrup herself, my skepticism meter went a little haywire. I don’t care what honorific one has after his or her name, a quack is a quack is a quack.

Looking more closely at the practitioner application for the 2018 training, a few things stood out to me starkly.

From page 3, one Carol Bilek (Senior Whole Woman Practitioner) is touted as one of the primary instructors, and her honorific is MEd., which means she has a master’s degree in education. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a retired special education teacher is not exactly the first person I would consult about a prolapse.

From page 5, “While Whole Woman has been established as a modality by the International Institute for Complementary Therapists for the purposes of obtaining liability insurance in a number of countries, there is no licensing requirement in the US. Other countries may have other requirements. This is another reason why women with existing practices may have a licensing umbrella under which women can integrate the Whole Woman work.” — this sent up all sorts of alarm bells (mainly legal, in terms of liability).

Also from page 5, “You must have a uterus. Our experience in working with post-hysterectomy clients makes it clear that women without a uterus can no longer experience what women who still have their uterus can feel for themselves. This has been a difficult decision, and we regret any disappointment it causes our post-hysterectomy friends. However, we feel it is a critical qualifier.” — so a woman who has had a hysterectomy is no longer a “whole” woman. How nice.

From page 6, and probably the biggest red flag for me, was “You must understand and be committed to the Whole Woman philosophy and work. If you are continuing to look to your doctor for guidance, or are committed to traditional approaches of Physical Therapy or Yoga lineages, this program probably isn’t for you.
Traditional postural models are demonstrably inaccurate. If you are unable to let go of traditional approaches, it is unlikely that you will be an effective Whole Woman Practitioner. We are not asking for a leap of faith. We have exhaustive research to back up every Whole Woman assertion. But we have found that those women who will not let go of their traditional beliefs about Western medicine and Yoga are rarely successful in applying Whole Woman methods in their own lives.
We are not against either Yoga or Western medicine. Quite the contrary. However, where research has shown problems or inaccuracies with these systems, assumptions and practices need to be challenged. A challenge to assumptions or practices is not to be construed as judgment about the entire system.” — and yet, the “exhaustive research” is where is the major question mark happens to be. If the research is so very exhaustive, why not present it plainly? That question got me a bit curious, so I went to Amazon where Ms. Kent’s book is sold (for around $35-40 — a bit steep for trying to “save all women” — there again, not as steep as the “Kegel Queen’s” $299 book, so I suppose that is a plus.)

I read through the rest of the application, closed it up, and went to Amazon, where Ms. Kent’s book is reviewed, and came across this review:

Take a quick glance at and click on the forum link to the left. Under emotional issues you will find a post by Christine Kent herself written February 29th, 2012 with the title ‘Amazon Reviews’. There she complains about a poor customer review on Amazon and asks her ‘followers’ to write positive reviews. I found this alarming although I’m not at all surprised after I purchased this book and found it to be of no value. Thankfully I have found OTHER alternatives that changed my life even though according to Christine Kent that’s hardly possible! If a book is good the author doesn’t need to tell a sob story to get positive reviews. The book will speak for itself without that.

…followed (inevitably) by several of Ms. Kent’s supporters on a rampage. That entry can be found here, and I find it astonishing that someone who is SO VERY CERTAIN of her program would ask people to do what she asked…though I’m less surprised that her supporters agreed to obey, since that’s what cult members do, after all. Likewise, when engaged by the “Kegel Queen,” Ms. Kent’s defensive maneuvering was equally transparent.

Further, as I have chronic lower back issues, the postural “modality” presented by Ms. Kent is impossible for me. Even though I possess a uterus, which still “qualifies” me, I don’t know if I could ever physically perform the PT-refuted postural “treatment” suggested, which never mind the quackery, I simply couldn’t do it…even if I were interested in becoming a Whole Woman “practitioner,” which…I’m definitely not. I’m especially disinterested in a program that asserts that post-hysterectomy women aren’t “whole” women.

Note: I’m not suggesting here that other women wouldn’t benefit from Ms. Kent’s program. Far from it. I’m a firm believer in informed decision-making, and if some essential woo-woo that eschews Western medicine and yoga in favor of some radical (and mostly ineffective) postural shift, more power to ’em. I’m just not interested in throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet for a program that I know wouldn’t work for me or any woman I happen to know. If it works for others, though, that’s fantastic.