A postpartum dream: Where to go for vaginal tightening, urinary incontinence and sex therapy
Clit-erally the best
Walking into Queen's Medical Clinic isn't what you expect—yes, it's pristine and sterile, but the plush interior is far from your bog-standard doctor's office and more akin to the parlour of an 18th century French chateau. The atmosphere is so comfortable, and no wonder—when you deal in matters of all things intimate (say it with me: vaginas), comfort should be the first priority on your list (and it certainly is for this clinic).
We sat down with Dr Nik Nur Sukma, the resident medical and aesthetic doctor at the clinic, to chat about all things taboo: namely, the realities of postpartum life and the options new mums have to take back control over their sexual health. We talked about the embarrassing conditions that can arise with pregnancy and birth like vaginal laxity and urinary incontinence, as well as the easiest way for any and all women to up the ante on their sexual pleasure. Read on to get all the juicy details!
Why do you think it's important to get awareness going for vaginal rejuvenation, especially in postpartum women?
"There are a lot of women who suffer in silence because they either don't realise that what they're experiencing isn't normal, they don't know who to talk to about their intimate issues, or they don't realise there are options for them to get treatment. I want to get the word out there that our Queens Medical Clinic specialises in women's health and that one of the services we provide is the Queens Pelvic Suite Treatment, which caters to a whole range of women's health issues from conditions like vaginal laxity to urinary incontinence. The state-of-the-art technology we offer in this treatment includes BTL Emsella Chair, which works to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and the BTL Ultra Femme 360, which works to tighten the vagina."
How does pelvic health change with childbirth and how does this lead to issues like incontinence?
"During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles carry the weight of our baby—the womb, the amniotic fluid and the baby’s weight is an extra 10-15 kilos that is being carried through the nine months of gestation. The extra weight causes the pelvic floor muscles to weaken, and without proper strengthening exercises it becomes looser."
"Now, the pelvic floor muscles don’t just hold everything in our abdominal cavity; they also facilitate bladder control as the sphincter is located over the muscle belly. So, with weakened pelvic floor muscles, even though the bladder isn’t full it sends a signal to the body that you need the toilet. Hence, why pregnant and postpartum women always need the toilet as well as suffer from stress incontinence (they pee when they jump, sneeze or cough) and urge incontinence (when they see a toilet, they pee). It does happen!"
Does maternal age affect the likelihood of these issues like incontinence occurring?
"The ageing process does loosen up the muscle and weaken it, but maternal age doesn’t really affect the likelihood of incontinence. That is, as I said, attributed more to nine months of extra weight to carry and weakened pelvic floor muscles. Regardless of age, you’re still going to need strengthening exercises or treatments like those that we offer in the Pelvic Suite Treatment to strengthen the pelvic floor."
Could you tell us more about the Pelvic Suite Treatment?
"The Pelvic Suite treatment has six treatments—vaginal tightening from the BTL Ultra Femme 360, Pelvic Floor Strengthening by the BTL Emsella machine, Intimate Smooth to tighten the labia and improve the aesthetic of the vagina, the Intimate Spa where we do brightening over the area and Intimate Silk for laser hair removal."
What are the existing treatments for pelvic floor muscle strengthening and how does the BTL Emsella improve on it?
"For strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, the one and only exercise available is kegels. Of all my patients, 50% of them have heard of it but either don't know how to do it or if they are doing it correctly, and if they do then they don't do it on a regular basis.
"The kegel exercise is basically squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for 5-10 minutes, the same way when holding in urine, but doing it for longer duration and with higher frequency to exercise and strengthen the muscle. The problem with kegel exercises is that no one else but you can tell whether you're squeezing the right muscle—in a lot of cases, patients are actually squeezing their buttocks or their anal sphincters rather than the pelvic floor."
"The Emsella chair is different. When you sit on the chair, the high-intensity electromagnetic field is bound to hit the right muscle and contract it. One session is equivalent to 11,000 kegels—can you imagine? You could give me a whole lifetime and I wouldn't be able to do 11,000 kegels!
"The benefits are that it works to strengthen the pelvic muscles to treat urinary incontinence, but it can also improve sexual health by increasing blood flow to the erogenous zones which makes it easier to reach orgasm, improves vaginal dryness and improves overall sexual satisfaction. Plus, after the treatment you will know whether you are, in fact, squeezing the right muscle and you'll have muscle memory so you will remember how to contract it that strongly again."
"Alternatively, the medical treatment for urinary incontinence is invasive surgery. It definitely works, but what we offer is an alternative that is comfortable, convenient and effective—patients sit down for 30 minutes, fully clothed, and it reduces 75% of (incontinence) pad usage."
What about the current treatments for vaginal tightening and how the BTL Ultra Femme 360 improves on them?
"For vaginal tightening for the aesthetic market you have two options: either using a CO2 laser over the internal vagina area or using the BTL Ultra Femme 360 which uses a combination of radiofrequency and ultrasound."
"The way the CO2 laser works is that it makes small wounds all over the inside of the vagina, and when the wounds heal they contract and this is what makes the vagina tighter. The problems I see with the CO2 laser for intimate vaginal tightening is that it isn't painless, the risk of complications are higher because the wounds inside the vagina may lead to fibrosis (although this is a rare complication), and it has a longer downtime—it requires three days of abstinence as sex can cause further wounds and potentially an infection as well."
"I believe that the Ultra Femme 360 is the ideal treatment; it's comfortable, very fast and has no downtime. It’s very hygienic as the probe we insert into the vagina is changed for every session (not sterilised and reused) which eliminates the risk of STD and all that. Plus, because the probe emits the radiofrequency in 360 degrees, the treatment is cut short to just 8 minutes—it’s so fast as compared to the CO2 laser, which takes 20-30 minutes."
How do radiowaves actually work to tighten the vagina?
"When the wave passes through the layers of your vagina, through the collagenous areas, subcutaneous areas and deeper layers it promotes collagen buildup and shrinks the existing collagen, causing the whole area to tighten up."
Is it safe?
"Radiofrequency has been used for many years in other treatments—on the tummy and the chin area to tighten them up—and its safety is well established. The devices are recognised by the FDA and the MDA, in both the US and Malaysia."
How long do the effects of the treatment last? Do you have any tips for your patients?
"We recommend that our patients come in for six sessions—twice a week for three weeks. Once all sessions are completed, it's just one session yearly for maintenance. I'd recommend everyone to start earlier than later as muscle wastage is inevitable with age."
Obviously there is a cosmetic component to the Pelvic Suite Treatment with the Ultra Femme 360; what do you usually aim for in terms of intimate aesthetics?
"All women’s vaginas are different so what is aesthetically pleasing is based on the patient’s wants and needs. The Intimate Smooth component of the Pelvic Suite treatment can work to tighten the labia, and the Intimate Spa helps to brighten the skin area and do permanent hair removal."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Giving it a whirl...
Out of curiosity (and for your benefit), I decided to give the BTL Emsella a whirl. Just by looking at it, in all honestly, I was skeptical. It's a very unassuming piece of equipment and doesn't look like at all medical device; rather, it looks like a piece of furniture that would fit right into the living room of your house (coincidentally, it also costs as much as a house does). I digress—I took a seat, positioned myself accordingly and Dr Sukma turned the intensity up gradually.
Immediately, I felt my pelvic floor muscles contracting in time to the machine and I can say with full confidence that it is the strangest thing I've ever felt—but I don't doubt that it works. There was a slight discomfort associated with it but nothing I would describe as genuinely painful—rather, it feels like someone else is squeezing the muscles in your hoo-ha for you. All in all, very strange but I'd do it again!
If you're interested in the Pelvic Suite Treatment, get in touch here:
Address: Queens Medical Clinic, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur, 50450
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday 9am - 7pm, closed on Sundays
Contact: 03 2715 4442