Traditional bike seats, which have been linked to health concerns in men, may also be a hazard to a woman's sexual health.
Spending time on a bicycle seat, which has been linked to erectile dysfunction in men, may also be a hazard to a woman’s sexual health, a new study shows.
Bike seats are designed in such a way that body weight typically rests on the nose of the seat, which can compress nerves and blood vessels in the genital area. In men, this raises the risk of erectile dysfunction, something that has been documented in studies of male police officers on bicycle patrol. Some scientists believe that female cyclists probably are at similar risk for sexual problems.
In the latest study, researchers at Yale tried to determine whether there were specific factors that influenced soreness and numbness among female riders. Forty-eight women took part in the study, each a consistent rider who cycled a minimum of 10 miles a week, but typically much more.
Notably, it was the position of the handlebars that seemed to have the most effect. Women on bikes with handlebars positioned lower than their seats experienced more pressure in an area of soft tissue called the perineum, and had decreased sensation in the pelvic floor.
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The researchers found that the lower the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the more a woman has to lean forward, forcing her to put a greater percentage of her body weight on the perineum. This problem is especially likely to occur when a rider leans forward, flattens her back and puts her hands on the “drop bars” of a road or track bicycle for a more aerodynamic position.
“We’re basically showing that there may be modifiable risk factors associated with female riders,” said Dr. Marsha K. Guess, an author of the study and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.
The findings, published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, help shed further light on the problems faced by female riders, something that needs more long-term study, said Steven M. Schrader, a scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health whose early research helped identify the bike seat risks for male police officers on bicycle patrol.