Pressure on the Perineum – A Woman’s Bicycle Story

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Sometime ago I read an article in the New York Times about the impact of cycling on one’s nether region. Though the article noted discomfort in the genital area of women, scientists mainly focused on erectile dysfunction. The study cited was even titled “Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis,” clearly concentrating on men’s health.

Even so, I began to wonder how pressure on the perineum could impact my own sexual health as a woman, especially when I began to feel numbness and tingling in my genital area. This sensation worried me; like most women, issues regarding my genital sensation and sexual health concern me.

I tried to figure out what had changed that may have increased the pressure on my perineum. It didn’t take long before I determined the culprit for my sore punani: my purse.

It was the same tote bag I had been using to transport my wallet, glasses, and dictionary; but over time it amassed everything I decided I couldn’t do without: Issues of the New Yorker, books, notebooks, iodine (for injuries), occasionally my computer, and more.

I decided that the added burden was probably pushing down on my crotch, causing pressure on the perineum and potentially affecting my sexual health, so it had to go.

After removing the unnecessary weight from my bag, the perineal pressure was significantly reduced, and I noticed the difference right away. I was able to enjoy a comfortable bicycle commute again, without worrying whether the ride was detrimental to my vaginal health.

I have since learned cycling can negatively impact a woman’s sexual health. The New York Times recently posted an article about the impact of cycling on a woman’s sexual health, and reported scientific findings that point to genital desensitization due to frequent bicycle riding.

Female cyclists do not, however, have to stop cycling in order to protect their genital sensitivity. We just have to understand what causes genital desensitization and what we can do to avoid it.

Preventing Pressure on the Perineum

The main reason female cyclists experience vaginal distress is because we are putting too much pressure on the perineum, a part of the body that is not designed to bear weight, and this perineal pressure cuts blood circulation in the genital area.

There are various ways women cyclists can reduce pressure on the perineum and improve their sexual well-being. Women’s bodies and needs vary, so determine what suits your needs best.

  1. Noseless saddle.While I have yet to purchase a noseless saddle, it is next on my to-do list. The noseless saddle is a type of bicycle seat that forces cyclists to carry weight in their sit bones, as opposed to their perineum. We often press our perineum against the “nose” of our bicycle saddle, but with no seat nose, there’s no way to put pressure on the perineum.
  2. Adjust your handlebars. Many cyclists lean forward to reach their low-positioned handlebars, often flattening their backs, so they can ride in an aerodynamic position. Unfortunately, this position causes added pressure on the perineum, which scientists have found can decrease vaginal sensitivity. Luckily, this perineal predicament can be fixed by raising your handlebars.
  3. Adjust your bicycle and your riding position. On a similar note, it is important that your bicycle is adjusted to fit your body size and needs. Your saddle is not designed to take on all of your body’s weight. Instead, your weight should be distributed to various parts of your bike in order to minimize pressure in any one place, like the perineum. For instance, pedaling with the balls of your feet enables your legs to bear the weight of your body better.
  4. Give your perineum a break. If you bike for long distances, your body is bound to get tired and weigh more heavily on your bicycle seat – stifling your perineal area. Stand-up-saddle riding, where you stand up while cycling, completely relieves the pressure from your groin and permits blood flow in your vaginal region.
  5. Reduce the weight. I’ve learned from personal experience that added weight just bears down on the perineal area. In order to minimize the weight you carry on your body, consider saddle bags, or baskets, which place the weight on your bicycle instead. You can also just clear out the clutter in your purse.

Spinning and Pressure on the Perineum

I haven’t taken a spin class, but I’ve been informed that it entails the same perineal pressure, with few adjustments that can be made to the stationary bike to improve comfort. In this situation, women may want to consider padded bicycle shorts to minimize pressure on the perineum.

This story was published previously on Hormones Matter in 2012. 

Elena Perez obtained a B.A. in American Literature at UCLA, but a growing interest in environmental issues led her to enroll in science classes and gain lab experience at UCSD and SIO. The close link between our ocean’s health and our own well-being has spurred Elena to explore the role environmental toxins play in our growth and development.


  1. I have to admit I never thought that bike seat pressure might actually cause desensitization. It kindof makes me wince knowing that I rode 4,000 miles cross country without much padding!! Oh, my poor perineum!! During that trip my remedy for tenderness and discomfort was a gel seat and padded shorts which gave a small bit of relief. I wish I had known to get a better seat. I think I might get one now for my local commutes. Thanks for the info!

  2. Honestly I wish I were still biking enough to have to consider these remedies! It’s such a wonderful form of exercise, especially here along the coast. I’ll definitely forward to my Tri-team friends who are biking everywhere and all the time!

    • Well, don’t let this article deter you! Cycling is a lot of fun, especially in the spring time when all the flowers are in bloom. I’m curious as to what Tri-athletes have to say about this topic..

  3. Thanks for the info! The last time I was on a bike was over 5 years ago and I was hit by a car :(. However, I do know a lot of women who ride and take spinning classes (including my family) and I think this info is vital so I’m going to pass it on! Thanks Elena!

    • Thanks for passing this on! It can be easy to ignore discomfort, so knowing the impact cycling has on our sexual health is imperative. Women should address any numbness of the perineum right away.

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