Your Beginner’s Guide to Ben Wa Balls
By Carina Hsieh | Originally Published November 3 on Cosmopolitan | Featuring Dr. Sherry Ross
What are Ben Wa balls?
Ben Wa balls, or vaginal exercise weights, are meant to be inserted into your vagina to improve pelvic floor muscles. Dr. Nita Landry, OBGYN, and co-host of The Doctors, explains that when you insert Ben Wa balls into your vagina, your pelvic muscles work to hold them in place. Dr. Candace Howe, an OBGYN, compares the added weight of these balls to using free weights when exercising other parts of the body.
What exactly are Ben Wa balls and what do they do? Are they a sex toy or a legit health exerciser? The answer is a little bit of both. Dr. Howe says while they were originally designed to rebuild strength and support lost in pelvic floor muscles, over time Ben Wa balls have gotten more and more popular as a sex toy. She says this is due to the stimulation they provide on the anterior vaginal wall, which is full of sensitive nerve endings. And as Dr. Nita points out, the Fifty Shades of Grey books have caused a surge in popularity for Ben Wa balls after the toys were mentioned in the series. (TBT that iconic scene when Anastasia Steele, wide-eyed with panic, asks Christian if he’s going to put the Ben Wa balls in her butt. If that’s not the most relatable moment in Fifty Shades series, I don’t know what is.)
Is there any medical reason to use them?
Do you need to do Kegel exercises or run out and buy a set of Ben Wa balls right TF now? Even though Ben Wa balls can be a fun challenge, probably not. In fact, you’ve probably exercised your PC muscles without even knowing it. Dr. Howe says regular core-strengthening exercises also work the same pelvic muscles. “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,” she explains. Dr. Sherry Ross, OBGYN and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. says some women may like the fullness that Ben Wa balls can provide, although regs Kegel exercises would accomplish the same thing for free.
Dr. Howe says there may be some benefits to using them for people after childbirth or who have suffered other pelvic trauma that has caused their pelvic floor muscles to weaken over time. She says that Ben Wa balls help to give a “focus and directed intention to exercises designed to rebuild that support and strength.” Dr. Sherry also points out that if used correctly, Ben Wa balls can help you avoid symptoms such as stress and urge incontinence caused by childbirth, aging, and obesity.
Are there any risks?
It is possible to go overboard with the Ben Wa balls. Rachel Gelman, DPT, PT at Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, says overexerting your PC muscles can also cause harm. Gelman says if you do choose to use Ben Wa balls, make sure you also relax your pelvic floor afterward, just like any other workout.
Dr. Sherry compares this to using Ben Wa balls like regular weights at the gym — you can still overdo it and cause temporary strain. However, this is easily avoidable. Dr. Sherry says, overexerting your PC muscles from Ben Wa balls doesn’t happen too often. Going forward, she recommends that “rest[ing] and being less enthusiastic with your pelvic floor workout would be recommended to avoid problems in the future.”
Dr. Sherry also says that leaving them inside the vagina for too long can stress the pelvic floor muscles and cause vaginal infections. In order to avoid infection, she says to make sure you’re cleaning the balls with a vagina friendly, non-fragranced soap and warm water after each use.
If you want to use them for sexual stimulation, keep the following in mind:
Dr. Howe says not to leave them in for more than six hours in case you place too much pressure on your urethra, but it seems unlikely that you’d put the balls in and want to leave them in place all day, anyways. If you start to smell an odor or get a discharge, you should take it as a sign to remove your Ben Wa ball and clean it! She also says the best materials would be non-porous like metal (stainless steel) or glass. Dr. Nita says the material can also impact a user’s overall experience. She says, “Compared to plastic Ben Wa balls, stainless steel Ben Wa balls are typically more difficult to hold in.”
As for removal? It probably won’t be as difficult as you think. While OG Ben Wa balls are made of metal and don’t come with a string, there are newer versions with silicone strings that make removal much easier. Dr Nita says that thanks to your cervix, the balls can’t migrate beyond your vagina. So don’t worry about “losing” them inside your vagina. Dr. Nita says, “If you are having difficulty removing the Ben Wa ball, just relax, change your position, and/or bear down.” And please remember that Ben Wa balls do not belong in your anus. Dr. Nita says they can easily fall too far into your colon.
Chat with your doctor to determine the appropriate amount of time for you. Dr. Nita says in general, beginners should start off using them for a few minutes, and then if your doctor and you decide that you can handle longer, you can wear them for a few hours. To start off with, Dr. Sherry recommends using them for 20-30 minutes a day, squeezing your pelvic floor muscles together in reps of 15 or 20.
Bottom line, if you choose to use them for sex purposes, don’t go overboard. As Dr. Howe says, as with everything in life, moderation is key when it comes to Ben Wa usage.
Below, a round up of some of the bestselling Ben Wa balls on the internet.
1. Lelo Luna Beads
These bestselling beads come in two sizes, classic and mini, and are pretty universally loved across the board. I have friends who have tried them separately and both raved about them. Each set comes with a two sets of weighted beads (one lighter, and one heavier) so you can mix and match or work your way up as you get more comfortable. There’s a silicone strap that connects both beads, a removal cord, and each plastic bead has a smaller, weighted metal bead inside. There’s enough space between the outer plastic casing and the weighted ball that you can feel the balls roll and move around inside the plastic as you move around.
2. Fetish Fantasy Ben Wa Balls
If you wanna really go-for-it, g0-for-it, try these. They’re OG Ben Wa style, so no cord. You shouldn’t have a hard time taking them out though — just make sure you’re not scraping or clawing the opening of your vagina trying to get them out. These beads were inspired by Fifty Shades so you know they’ll play into any fantasies of yours easily as well.
3. Lovehoney Main Squeeze Single Kegel Ball
If you’re looking for a no-frills entry-level Ben Wa ball, try this purple Lovehoney toy. The single ball is made of smooth, seamless silicone for easy cleaning and a comfortable experience. Because it’s silicone, make sure you’re using a water-based lube to insert! After that, you should be good to go!
4. Coco de Mer Catherine Pleasure Balls Set
It sounds French so you know it’s fancy AF! This bougie set comes complete with a leather carrying case so it’s not just a kegel set, but a kegel set worth showing off. The set includes three silicone balls with different weights (two beaded exercisers with two beads, and one with just a single ball). You can work your way to the heaviest ball, starting with the lightest version.
5. Metal Weighted Ben Wa Exercise Kit
If you want the temperature play options of OG Ben Wa balls, with the modern convenience of a pull cord, try these. The metal balls have a silicone strap so you can interchange weights.
6. Set of 5 Progressive Silicone Kegel Weights
Variety is the spice of life! If you want to try a set of Ben Wa balls that very gradually gets heavier and heavier, try these. There’s a set of five weights, ranging from 35g to 100g, so you can increase weights slowly as needed. Plus, each ball is on its own separate loop, so there’s no need to swap the balls out.
7. Black Obsidian Ben Wa Balls
Dr. Howe likes these as they’ve been recommended to her by patients and physical therapists. “They are not permeable so they are easy to clean and won’t harbor bacteria as easily.”