Smartballs, love balls, Kegel balls, vaginal balls, ben-wa balls, whatever you call them (they aren’t all exactly the same, but we’re going to fudge the subtleties for now), can improve tone in the pelvic floor, which often suffers during pregnancy and childbirth and weakens with age and loss of estrogen at and before menopause.
Estrogen helps keep the entire vulvovaginal region strong and elastic. Less estrogen means that it will take more work to maintain the same strength you had before. And you want a strong pelvic floor.
A strong pelvic floor means less stress incontinence (leaking urine when you cough or laugh), decreased risk of uterine prolapse, a tighter vaginal grip during sex, and stronger orgasms. Yes, you could just do Kegel exercises, but you have to think about that. Kegel balls claim to make the exercises an automatic body response.
Smartballs come in two versions, Smartball Uno (which has one ball) and Smartballs Duo (which, shockingly, has two balls). The Smartball Uno is considered appropriate for beginners and those recovering from injury, surgery, or childbirth, while the Smartballs Duo is for more “advanced” users.
The lovely people at Fun Factory sent me the Smartballs Duo to review.
It (they?) arrived in a discreet box, giving no indication of what was inside, but jiggled oddly whenever I moved it – not audibly, but the motion of the little balls inside carried easily through the box. It was a little fascinating, and definitely would attract some attention. I was pleased that I hadn’t sent my 12 year-old to get the mail that day, dodging that inquisition. So, if discretion is your thing and you live with the nosy, having these come by mail might not be your best choice.
The balls aren’t actually separate. The silicone surrounding the balls is connected and the removal loop at the end is molded silicone as well. There are deep grooves where the colored, soft silicone part meets the hard white ASB plastic, which is slightly challenging to clean (I recommend a toothbrush. A DEDICATED toothbrush.), but other than that, soap and water do the job just fine. Since the removal cord is silicone as well, it won’t discolor like fiber cords do over time. It will stay pretty. The silicone is a bit grabby, though, and I needed to use lube to insert them.
The balls came with a leaflet full of shiny Ikea-type pictograms detailing their use. These made me unreasonably happy.
I’ve used LELO’s Luna Beads before, and though they are very nearly the same size, the Smartballs feel bigger. Not huge, but you are not going to forget these things are in. I was very aware of them as I walked around the house and the yard. The slight motion of the internal beads is nice. It is very light, almost feathery stimulation, but, since it continues for hours, it definitely has an effect. I enjoyed doing the dishes much more than usual, especially walking back and forth to the cupboards.
Could Smartballs give me an orgasm?
I doubt it. That isn’t really what they are for. I tried to maximize their effect by sitting in a rocking chair for a while, but the jiggling didn’t make much of a difference.
But I spent hours paying attention to the sensations in my vagina, and there was definitely increased blood flow to the area. So by the time I took them out, I was pretty aroused and ready for some more serious action. So timing matters. No sex and no opportunity to masturbate after my first run left me very frustrated. But that is completely my own fault, not the Smartballs.
The Smartballs also had an unexpected bonus:
The included materials suggested touching a vibrator to the removal loop to transmit vibrations. It was mentioned so casually I almost ignored it. I’m glad I didn’t – it really did transmit vibrations all the way through the balls, and, this is where their size was an advantage, made them function as a mild g-spot stimulator. It wasn’t very strong, since most of the vibration was dampened on its way in, but it was pleasant and a surprisingly nice enhancement.
One potential downside:
These are not as quiet as you might expect from a non-powered toy. Though they don’t clang like metallic balls, I can hear the internal balls clacking around inside when I walk. It’s a soft sound (Fun Factory claims that they are the quietest love balls in the world), but I definitely want witness testimony on how loud they are to other people before I wear them to Trader Joe’s.
So what about the long-term benefits?
I’ve worn them several times a week over the last two weeks, but that’s a pretty short time to see dramatic results.
But what should I expect after a couple of months? Fun Factory cites a study in their booklet:
This is not going to happen for me. I am not a methodical person. There aren’t a whole lot of things I manage to do every day. I manage to eat, sleep, and now that my children are big, usually take a shower. I can brush my teeth, but flossing regularly is still beyond my reach and I only make my bed as often as I do so that it isn’t completely full of dogs when I want to go to sleep.
In short, the chances of me wearing these things for a half hour every day for three months are very low. It might be easier if I could leave them in all day, but the instructions say that I shouldn’t use them for more than three hours at a time.
Naturally, I tested that three hour limit.
I’d love to say it was for science, or as a sacrifice for the sake of my readers, but really (did I mention that I’m not methodical?), I got distracted and lost track of time. One day I wore them almost twice that long.
The results? Pressure, cramping, achy back, and mild sweats. This didn’t shock me, since those are the same symptoms I have if I try to wear a tampon on the first day or two of my period, so that doesn’t mean they would do that for everyone. While my symptoms probably stem from a very sensitive vagus nerve, similar things can also happen to people with a tilted uterus or polycystic ovarian syndrome, and probably other things that I haven’t heard about because bodies are complicated. So if you’ve got internal sensitivities, be extra-vigilant about how long you leave these in. Know your body and know your limits.*
Do I like the Smartball Duo better than my Luna Beads? Not really. Luna Beads offer a lot more flexibility to your Kegel training. Though I do like the Smartball Duo trick with the vibrator on the cord, which you can’t do with the Luna Beads. The Smartball Duo is also half the price of the Luna Beads, which counts for something, too.
Overall, I liked the Smartballs a lot. Since I sometimes have problems with decreased libido, another effect of perimenopausal hormonal shifts, it’s nice to have something that I know I can use to help me with physical arousal. I can use these to prep myself for sex that I’m hoping for later, which is very useful, in addition to being fun. They are a high quality, body-safe product. Add in the reported health benefits, and it’s a winner.
*In addition to people with a dropped or tilted uterus, Fun Factory states in their materials that Smartballs are not suitable for people who have had a hysterectomy. There does seem to be a risk of vaginal cuff dehiscence in some cases, but most people should not experience significant risk, as long as they are recovered from the surgery itself. Please check with your doctor if you think you could be at risk.