Ask any woman who has had a baby and she’ll tell you that her body is never ever the same. Varicose veins, wider hips, extra weight, even bigger feet – nothing is ever the same. It’s worth it, though, when you look at that little bundle of joy. (I’m trying to remember this as I look at my 6′ tall 17-year-old son.) One area of your body that suffers especially, and gets very little mention, is the pelvic floor. The area of the body that carries the child experiences tremendous stress and often becomes weak. With this, women experience urinary incontinence. That’s where kegel exercises, named for Dr. Arnold Kegel, come in.
Kegel exercises help to restore and strengthen the muscles that surround and support the bladder, uterus, rectum, and urethra – the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are also known as your pubococcygeal muscles.
Kegel exercises will target the same muscles that allow you to slow or stop your urine stream as well as the muscles that help to prevent passing gas at awkward moments! Think of using those muscles both at the same time. Now, once you have a general understanding of which muscles you are targeting, lay down and try to isolate the muscles in this fashion.
- Lay with your hand over your lower abdomen and try not to use your stomach
- Try pulling your pelvic floor muscles up and in and hold for as long as you can. Aim for ten seconds.
- Slowly release the muscles and rest for 10-20 seconds
- Pull the muscles up and in again – you should be able to feel the muscles being ‘pulled’ up
- Repeat for as many repetitions as you can handle
One good way to tell if you are performing the exercises correctly is to insert one of your fingers into your vagina (Wash your hands before – and after!) Try squeezing your muscles – you should be able to feel the muscles tighten around your finger – even if it’s just a small bit.
As you continue to do kegels, you will notice a difference within a few weeks or a few months – they will become much easier to do. The wonderful thing about kegel exercises is that you need no special equipment, there are no training fees, and you can do them anywhere! Many women try to make a habit of practicing them at stop lights, while in elevators, or during commercials. They are very effective, with some studies indicating as much as a 75% reduction in the need for surgery for stress incontinence.
One other benefit: If you’re currently pregnant, do kegels throughout the pregnancy to strengthen the pelvic floor, easing delivery and postpartum recovery.
Who needs to do kegels? Every woman needs to do them. Why do you need to do Kegels? Because it’s no fun to pee whenever you exert yourself.