Having a baby can change your body in ways you may not initially think of. Of course, you’ll gain weight and your belly will stretch, but the muscles of your pelvic floor can also weaken, which can lead to serious problems if you don’t strengthen them again. Kegel exercises are a great way to do just that.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can weaken from childbirth and pregnancy or even from being overweight or aging. Over time, if your pelvic floor muscles become too weak, they can collapse and eventually bulge into your vagina. This is called pelvic floor prolapse, which can lead to urine leakage and pelvic discomfort. Kegel exercises can prevent the development of pelvic floor prolapse. Kegel exercises are also good for:
- People suffering from fecal incontinence
- Women suffering from urinary stress incontinence
- Women who have consistent problems reaching orgasm
Since Kegel exercises can be discreet, they can be done anywhere: in the car, at work or at home. They can also be done while you’re pregnant, which is good if you want to keep your pelvic muscles strong for childbirth.
How To Do Kegel Exercises
The pelvic floor muscles are a set of muscles that are underneath the bladder, uterus and large intestine. All of these muscles move simultaneously when you relax and contract them, so by exercising one muscle, you exercise all muscles. If you’re unsure of which muscles you’re exercising, follow these tips:
- When urinating, start to go and then stop. If you feel the muscles tighten and move up, you’ve essentially done a Kegel exercise.
- If you still are not sure of which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, insert a finger into your vagina and contract your muscles as if you are stopping urination. If you feel the muscles tighten and move up and down, you’ve found the pelvic floor muscles.
Now that you know which muscles you’re exercising, it’s time to actually start exercising them. To do a proper Kegel exercise, follow these steps:
- Lie down on the floor, or sit, if you prefer.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold it for five seconds.
- Now relax for another five seconds.
- Repeat this exercise four or five times in a row, three to four times a day.
Eventually, you want to be able to do this exercise for 10 seconds instead of five. After doing Kegel exercises regularly every day, you should expect to see results in eight to 12 weeks.
As with any exercise, there are always tips and tricks you should be aware of before you begin. Here are some tips to help you do Kegel exercises properly:
- Do not do Kegel exercises on a full bladder or while urinating. It’s OK to try them while urinating if you’re trying to figure out which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, but not at any other time. If you make this a habit, it could lead to weakened pelvic floor muscles, urine leakage or incomplete emptying of the bladder, which leads to an increased risk of a urinary tract infection.
- When doing Kegel exercises, make sure that you don’t hold your breath. Keep relaxed and breathe freely.
- There are certain muscles that you don’t want to contract while doing Kegel exercises. Your abdomen, thighs and buttocks should be relaxed. If they aren’t, they may feel uncomfortable when doing these exercises and you may not be working the muscles you want.
- Don’t over-exercise. It will not lead to quicker results. As with any type of exercise, if you do too much, it can wear you out. In this case, it can wear out, or weaken, the pelvic floor muscles, causing urine leakage and muscle fatigue.
If Kegel Exercises Aren’t Working
If you’re having problems doing Kegel exercises or if you’re not sure whether the exercises are working, don’t be embarrassed to consult a doctor. He or she can give you advice on what to do or what you’re doing wrong. In some cases, biofeedback techniques may need to be administered so you know what muscles you’re working and how to properly exercise them. Here are the techniques that may be used:
- Electrodes may be placed along the abdomen and on the outside of the vagina. A sensor will be inserted into the vagina to sense the muscles that are being contracted. A monitor will show which muscles are contracting and which are relaxing, so you know exactly which muscles need to be exercised.
- An electrical current may also be applied to your pelvic floor muscles, which will make them contract. Knowing what this feels like, you should be able to replicate these contractions on your own.
Like any other muscle in your body, the pelvic floor muscles need to be exercised and kept in shape. By doing Kegel exercises often, you’ll can prevent many problems and even stop some in their tracks.