The 'How To' on Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises is a term used to describe pelvic floor muscle exercises. Your pelvic floor muscles help support the bladder and rectum, and help you control your urine and bowel movements. Over time, these muscles become weakened as a result of childbirth, surgery, and aging. Just like any other muscle in your body, we have to regularly exercise our pelvic floor muscles in order to maintain their strength.
So how do you Kegel?
- Make sure you’re contracting the right muscles. Initially, you’ll want to focus on learning which exact muscles to tighten. Imagine a straw within the vagina and wanting to wrap the vaginal muscles tightly around that straw and then letting go. Practice holding and letting go several times so that you get the hang of which muscles to contract. One of the biggest pitfalls is that women have a tendency to lift their hips or contract their abdominal muscles. Make sure your body is relaxed and you’re focusing on isolating those muscles within the vagina.
- Build up your endurance. You’ll want to aim to hold each contraction for at least 10 seconds and then relax. At first, you may not be able to hold it for that long, however over time your muscles will become stronger and have more endurance. Perform at least 10 exercises three times daily, 3-4 times per week.
- Lasting results take hard work! Typically, you’ll see an improvement in your symptoms after three months of exercising. As time progresses, try to hold a stronger contraction for longer periods of time. Just like any muscle, you’ll have to put in the exercise to continue seeing results, so don’t stop exercising once you see improvement.
If you’re a first timer, here is the best way to get started.
Relax on your back with your knees bent and feet resting comfortably on the floor. Focus on deep breathing and relaxing the muscles within your abdomen and back. Then focus your energy on contracting within the vagina, hold this contraction for 10 seconds, then relax. Continue this for 10 exercises total. Once you get the hang of performing a Kegel, you can do your exercises anywhere, while at your desk, driving a car, or watching TV!
Pelvic floor exercises can be a powerful tool to help control urinary incontinence and bowel leakage. For more information, you can visit voicesforpfd.org or talk to your Ob-Gyn! As always, take care down there!
Dr. Shweta Pai