It takes a lot to prise me away from my laptop, puppy and out-of-town postcode but when the invite landed to come and try a Kegel Throne, I was on the train to London quicker than you can say 'knickers in a twist'. Not because I was looking to get my kicks in public but because a) I’d just written a feature on vaginal health and am so intrigued by this growing market that I’m opening my mind (and my legs) to most things at the moment, and b) it came with the promise of more toned and tightened pelvic floor muscles from just one session.
Why do I care about pelvic floor muscles? Because it’s not just new mums or women over a certain age being struck with incontinence issues – HIIT sessions that incorporate intense exercises like burpees are now being blamed for weak bladders due to the pressure they exert on your insides. "The pelvic floor is essentially a large 'hammock' of muscle and can be put under strain," says gynaecologist Dr Anne Henderson. "All women, even those who have never been pregnant or given birth, will benefit from pelvic floor exercises to improve vaginal condition, bladder control and prevent pelvic floor laxity in later life."
While my bladder isn’t weak, it is an overworker. For as long as I can remember I’ve needed the toilet more often than most, and it was only after endless tests to find out why I was getting cystitis all the time (sans sex), that doctors discovered I had a 'lip' on my bladder. As well as 'harbouring infection', it means I feel like I need to 'go' all the time. Including between 2 and 4am every. Single. Night.
Without wanting to delve too deep into my medical records I also have an autoimmune disease that can sometimes make sex uncomfortable. My husband and I are used to it but with 73% of women reporting sexual discomfort, I thought I’d take one for the team to see if a session on a vibrating chair could make sex more Ooohh than Owww.
First things first, the 'throne' isn’t what I was expecting looks-wise. My hopes of a gilded contraption with velvet trim were dashed when I drew back the discreet curtain in Harvey Nichols’ The Light Salon (the only place you can experience the throne) to find what can only be described as a basin chair with a wipe-clean NHS-blue seat. Not that the throne needs to be wipe-clean – you remain fully clothed throughout the process. It did, I suppose, serve as a reminder that this is a clinical procedure that’s been FDA approved rather than just a fad for fannies, which is a good thing. After some research I discover that the chair’s official name is the Emsella; it’s Harvey Nichols’ clever marketing team that have renamed it the altogether more alluring 'throne'.
After being talked through what will happen, you hop up on the machine which is then turned on, leaving you to judge for yourself if the electromagnetic currents are hitting the right place – basically, the opening of your vagina. If you can feel them near your bum, you need to reshuffle. The sensation is like someone flicking you with an elastic band, but not as sharp or wince-worthy. Starting off at a low intensity, once you’re happy with the feeling and placement, the therapist will turn it up as you so wish. And while it isn’t painful, there’s also nothing pleasure-inducing about it, so don’t worry about climaxing in public.
While you’re sitting there you can’t use your phone (it messes with the frequency) but you can read a magazine, kick back and relax in private or, in my case, chat to the therapist for the entire 28 minutes about how the throne has done wonders for her friend’s sex life by heightening her orgasms. She tells me I’ll notice a difference from one treatment, although they do offer a six-treatment programme for £875(!).
Did I notice a difference? I’m still going to the loo in the night but that’s my own fault for drinking tea at 11pm. It’s hard to describe but I have felt a bit more 'zipped up' during cardio workouts as, despite being child-free, I’m definitely less springy down there since I hit my mid 30s. Sex has also been more enjoyable. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect but it’s almost enough to make me consider forking out £175 for another session.
As for the expert opinion, Dr Henderson gives it the thumbs-up. "The key difference between this treatment and others is that the electromagnetic energy causes supramaximal pelvic floor contractions which occur at a very high frequency rate and in a 30-minute session the pelvic floor goes through the equivalent of around 11,000 contractions. While this won’t help with collagen regeneration, there is evidence that regular use can help strengthen the pelvic floor and improve tone." And the reason why it can help with orgasms? "It can increase blood flow to the area which can enhance functions such as sexual activity."
The main downside is, of course, the price. £175 is a lot to pay when there are other ways to strengthen your kegels for free but if you do miraculously find yourself with a wad of spare cash, then you know what to do.